About 10 years ago, I was facing end stage renal failure. I went through almost 3 years of dialysis before I was matched with an eligible donor for a kidney transplant. However, I discovered that I had type 2 diabetes around the same time, and because I weighed about 280 pounds, my doctors said that I had to lose some weight in order to control my blood sugar and help me succeed as a transplant patient.
I was offered the standard options: diet, exercise, and gastric bypass surgery. Having tried Weight Watchers in the past, I knew that dieting doesn’t work for me, and exercise was difficult while carrying extra body weight. So I opted for the gastric bypass surgery, hoping it would work where nothing else had.
And it did work… for a while. I successfully lost some weight after the gastric bypass, enough to prepare me for the transplant surgery, which was also successful, and I no longer needed my regular dialysis treatments afterwards. However, my struggles with weight returned rather quickly. My body adapted to the gastric bypass, and eventually, my portions grew to almost the same size as they were before.
Over the years, my weight crept up, along with my blood sugar and A1c, and I lost hope that the gastric bypass surgery was the solution it had promised to be. I recognized what a gift it was to have received the kidney transplant, so I feared that I was jeopardizing that. Still, I did not know what to do in order to improve things.
Then one day in May of 2020, I received an email from my health insurance, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. Being an employee of the Boston Police Department for 20 years, I have always had my insurance covered by Harvard Pilgrim. They know more about me and my health than probably I do, and because I was working from home at the time due to the COVID pandemic, I was more diligent with catching up on my emails. Good thing, because they announced they were now covering Virta, a personalized treatment plan that could reverse my type 2 diabetes and even help me lose weight. I trusted that if Harvard Pilgrim was recommending it, I should give it a try.
I signed up for Virta because I simply want to be healthier. I am getting close to retirement, and I want to be able to experience that next chapter of my life to the fullest. I also have grandchildren whom I want to see grow up, and a family that I would like to spend more time with. All of these reasons drove me to give Virta a chance and see if it could be the actual solution I’ve been looking for.
Now, 5 months later, what I’ve already accomplished has made me want to stay on Virta for the rest of my life. Not only have I lost about 25 pounds, bringing me back to my weight right after the gastric bypass surgery, but I feel like I can live this way forever and not give up. My Virta health coach, Bobbie, gives me the right kind of information on how to adjust what I eat so that it fits my personal health needs. Bobbie also spends the time to educate me on what is happening with my body. When my blood sugars sometimes go up, even when I’m doing the right things, I now have someone to talk to about my numbers who understands how to best help me. I’ve already gotten such better blood sugars that my Virta provider eliminated the glimepiride medication for my diabetes, and I hope to stop my daily Victoza injections eventually as well.
Along the way, I’ve discovered some not-so-guilty pleasures that make doing Virta so enjoyable. My new zen moment for breakfast is when I pick up a couple of sous-vide egg bites from Starbucks along with a cup of coffee and heavy cream, which takes care of me for the rest of the morning. For other meals, I used to have trouble with overeating, and Bobbie has taught me how to better control my portions while not going hungry by adding satisfying sources of fat. In fact, Bobbie encourages me to eat until I am satisfied, and not only is the food delicious, but everyone can enjoy it. The other night, I made meatloaf using pork rinds instead of breadcrumbs, and my family didn’t even know it!
I wish I had known about Virta years ago, before I had to go through dialysis, before my gastric bypass surgery, before I had to work through my health issues alone. I almost get emotional when I think about how grateful I am for Harvard Pilgrim. Not only did they make me aware of Virta, but they are paying for the whole treatment. I think back to that email they sent, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am now had I not responded. What I’ve achieved while doing Virta has been so important to me that I want everyone who needs it to know that it can work for them.
I recognize how lucky I am that Harvard Pilgrim covers this treatment for free, but knowing what I know now, I would be totally willing to pay for it out of pocket. Not only has it improved my health, but it has changed the way I see myself. All my life, I was never proud of the way I looked and hated getting photos taken. The other day, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a mirror and was surprised at how I feel now. I liked what I saw, and that feeling is priceless.
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