Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Helping Veterans Manage Diabetes
For more than 50 years, Air Force Veteran Mike Turley worked in construction, primarily as a foreman, and lived an active lifestyle.
Since retiring in 2003, he gradually gained weight over the years. When his wife passed away five years ago from cancer, his diet declined when he began to eat out more.
“My wife wasn’t there, so I went out,” said Turley, who is 79 years old. “You eat what you want. If it looks good, I’ll eat it. If it doesn’t, I won’t.”
In February 2018, Turley scheduled an appointment with his VA Primary Care provider at the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic in Tulsa. He reported symptoms related to neuropathy, a condition commonly caused by diabetes and causes burning pain and numbness especially in his feet.
A hemoglobin A1C test showed it had risen from a baseline around 7 to 13.2 percent, with a fasting sugar of 318, which put him at risk acutely for visual blurring, confusion, hospitalization, and increased his risk for a heart attack or stroke.
A normal A1C level is below 5.7 percent, while 5.7 to 6.4 percent is considered prediabetes. A level of 6.5 percent or above indicates diabetes.
Dr. Vara Udupa, Tulsa Yellow Team Physician, recommended that Turley start taking insulin injections in addition to the oral medication he was taking.
“Dr. Udupa got me started doing what I needed to do (to lower his A1c levels),” said Turley. “She also talked to me about watching my diet and what to watch for such as laying off any kind of sweets.”
Anna Gomez, Yellow Team RN, also provided diabetes insulin education, and called Turley frequently to monitor his A1c levels. Gomez then reported his levels to Dr. Udupa.
Through medication, proper nutrition and dedication, Turley has been able to drop his A1c levels to 7.2 in only three months.
“Mr. Turley is a great example of a Veteran working with his primary care team to improve his health and quality of life,” said Gomez. “He worked with his provider to find medications that worked well for him, and with his RN and LPN for education and support.”
Dr. Udupa credited Gomez for providing education and closely monitoring his sugars and that he was compliant and not having any complications.
“I think sometimes people are more compliant when somebody is monitoring them,” said Dr. Udupa. “The very fact that she was talking to him a couple of times a month, that seems to have also motivated Mr. Turley to stay on track. It’s not easy, what he did, to get his A1C down by six points in just three months and also maintaining his weight loss.”
Turley said he is grateful to the Yellow Team for helping him get his A1C levels to a healthier level.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “Anna calls me every two weeks and she talks to Dr. Udupa. I just think they’re great people and they have our health in mind.”