For Mark Reardon, 53, every bite he takes—and every meal he skips—is critical. Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was in his late 20s, the Vacaville resident admits that he spent years in denial. “It was quite a shock,” he recalls. “It literally took me years to accept and I refused to take it seriously.” As a result, he suffered with lethargy, light-headedness, thirst and physical exhaustion—all symptoms of wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels.
“It was a real roller coaster,” he concedes. On a normal day, the general contractor would have to test his blood sugar four or five times, and more if he was doing a lot of physical labor or if he missed a meal.
“My day was structured around what I was eating and I felt like I had lost control of my life. If my blood sugar went too low, I’d be physically exhausted and it might take me a day to recover. If my blood sugar was too high, I’d think, ‘I’m killing myself.’”
As Mark got older, he wanted off the roller coaster, which brought him to the NorthBay Center for Endocrinology & Diabetes seven years ago, where he met Deborah Murray, M.D., and her team who have helped him change his life.
Diabetes is brought on by either an inability to make insulin (Type 1) or an inability to respond to the effects of insulin (Type 2), explains Dr. Murray, endocrinologist and medical director of the NorthBay Center for Endocrinology & Diabetes.
Insulin is one of the main hormones that regulates blood sugar levels and allows the body to use sugar (glucose) for energy, she explains. While most Type 2 diabetics can control their disease with just diet and exercise, Type 1 diabetics—because their pancreas no longer makes insulin—must monitor their blood sugar levels throughout the day, and administer insulin to keep those levels normal.
“Type 1 diabetics like Mark must watch their blood sugar levels moment by moment, testing as often as six to 12 times daily, and giving themselves four or more insulin injections daily,” Dr. Murray says. “You never get to forget about it.”
Fortunately, Mark was an excellent candidate for an insulin pump, which delivers a continuous infusion of insulin through a tube that is inserted just under the skin.
“It’s the size of a pager,” Dr. Murray explains. “It’s a state-of-the-art device that delivers insulin in amounts determined by Mark’s blood glucose reading. He has a continuous glucose monitor that ‘talks’ to the pump electronically. This helps Mark and his medical team determine how to program the pump to deliver just the right level of insulin. He can basically eat like a person without diabetes.”
But, Mark can also override the pump settings by manually re-adjusting the insulin levels, based on exercise or size of a meal.
“The pump can’t predict the future, so Mark has to stay in control,” says Dr. Murray.
“It is so empowering,” Mark says of his insulin pump. “I don’t feel as if I’m a victim of the disease anymore.”
The NorthBay Center for Endocrinology & Diabetes
The NorthBay Center for Endocrinology & Diabetes opened on the VacaValley Hospital campus in 2004. The practice is led by Dr. Deborah Murray, a physician board-certified in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, with more than 20 years of experience in diabetes management. The center’s team also includes Collette DaCruz, R.N., patient education coordinator and insulin pump trainer, as well as diabetes specialty nurse practitioners and dietitians. The center’s diabetes education program is accredited by both the American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Diabetic Educators. For further information, call the center at (707) 624-7999.