Driven to Get Diabetes Under Control

Jessie Salsman is a truck driver by trade. Throughout his career, he has been behind the wheel of big-rigs, heavy equipment and garbage trucks. “I’ve been in a cab since Day 1,” he says. “My life depends on being able to drive.”

Commercial drivers in good health are required to pass a physical exam every two years to have their licenses renewed. A few years ago, Jessie was thrown a curve when he did not pass that crucial exam.

The physical revealed he had high blood pressure and a blood test indicated diabetes. The diagnosis was shocking, Jessie says, but the results did help explain some things. “I had been feeling sluggish, not sleeping well, drinking a lot of water and going to the bathroom a lot. But, I had been feeling that way for so long, I guess I was accustomed to it.”

His physician, through another health care provider, put him on blood pressure and diabetes medicine, but it didn’t help get either under control. “It didn’t seem like the medicines were doing anything and I still wasn’t feeling well.” Frustrated with the lack of progress, Jessie started bringing his wife of 28 years, Deanne, with him to all medical appointments for moral support. “They just kept giving me different prescriptions.”

At his next physical exam, his blood pressure was still high and an A1C hemoglobin test was even higher —charting a stratospheric 12. Normal is below six. The test indicated that his average blood glucose level for the past three months was in the 300s.

Jessie knew his career was on the line. “I was in danger of having my license suspended if I couldn’t get those numbers straight.”

By this time he had changed medical providers and came under the care of Douglas Freeman, M.D., of the NorthBay Center for Primary Care in Fairfield in June. Dr. Freeman referred Jessie to Deborah Murray, M.D., director of the NorthBay Center for Endocrinology and Diabetes in Vacaville. “They are two of the best doctors I’ve had my whole life. They actually have beating hearts, actually care about their patients,” Jessie says. “Dr. Murray got me straightened out and helped me get my life back together.”

Jessie was put on a strict, low-carbohydrate diet, instructed to start exercising and taught how to check his blood sugar two or three times a day. He was also given the newest class of diabetes medicines to help regulate blood glucose.

He says he gladly stepped up to the plate because “Dr. Murray made me realize that if I didn’t do this, I would be facing a big career change and a shorter life. She really woke me up.”

In addition to Dr. Murray, Jessie says his team includes Collette DaCruz, R.N., certified diabetes educator; Terry Stowell, registered dietitian; and his wife, Deanne. He has been working with his team on nutrition education, goal-setting and support since July. “I was a big rice eater and loved noodles. Collette and Terry showed me how it was important to eat brown rice and special low-carb bread. My wife is my coach, my biggest supporter, and she helps out by making my meals.” He also now finds a way to exercise every day, either by riding a bike, walking or playing with his children.

All the hard work has paid off, as Jessie was able to get his blood pressure and diabetes under control. His commercial license was renewed this fall and he is back on the road again.

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