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Winning the Battle over Diabetes - William Gearhart


Apr, 2016

Physicians: Mike Rushlow, RN; Erin Salvagione

Harold Zehner and William Gearhart – both residents of Watervliet, Michigan – struggled with diabetes. The disease, which affects over 14.5 percent of residents in Berrien County, made daily tasks a challenge and was beginning to affect their quality of life.

Harold, 62, found himself having to go to the bathroom more frequently than normal and began losing a lot of weight. After talking to his primary care physician in Coloma, he learned that his blood sugar levels were dangerously high. He was told that if they had gotten any higher, he might have been admitted into the hospital. After he was given an insulin shot to bring his blood sugar down, his doctor suggested he begin to work with a dietician to help manage his diabetes. This brought him to Erin Salvagione, a certified diabetes educator.

Unlike Harold, William, 65, had been fighting diabetes for many years, and described it as “a constant battle.” “It took a lot of planning and willpower to manage,” said William. And so, at the recommendation of his primary physician, he also began meeting with a Lakeland diabetes educator, Mike Rushlow, RN.

For Harold, Erin worked to developing strategies that would help build healthy habits. She showed him how to manage carbs, while still fitting them into his diet. She also taught him how to be a smart shopper, and only buy things that were going to help his condition.

William was already familiar with the strategies to manage diabetes, as he had lived with it for several years. Instead, Mike gave William the tools to fight the mental battle against diabetes and helped him better understand what the sugar was doing to his body. “It was impressive what I learned from Mike – he made me want to have more control over my diabetes,” said William.

After a few months working with Erin, Harold began to see a significant impact on his health. His blood sugar was now much lower and his primary physician took him off most of his medications. Harold and Erin talked a lot about both his disease and his life outside diabetes. Harold’s wife had cancer, and he was committed to make sure he is able to be there for her. Looking back at the results, he is extremely happy with Erin’s plan. “I’ve never seen anyone care so much for my health,” said Harold.

Thanks to education William received from Mike, he is now more committed to his health. “It’s still a work in progress,” said William. “Although my blood sugar is not fully under control, it’s definitely better than it has been. My time with Mike has helped me develop a passion for health, and it’s not going away.”

Both Harold and William still have work ahead of them, but now, thanks to the certified diabetes educators at Lakeland Health, they're ready for whatever comes next on their journey to healthy living. 



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