I enlisted in the US Air Force in 1968 and served as a Medical Service Corps Officer for 18 of my 26-year career. I liked working in the medical service because I could make an impact in saving lives. That interest in healthcare stayed with me after I retired from the service, as I’ve since worked in hospitals across the country. I served as a hospital CEO and held other high-level administration roles, which all took its toll on my own health. My stress levels were through the roof. When my doctor diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes in 2008, I didn’t have the time or energy to take better care of myself.
I started with a low dose of metformin, but it eventually increased to 2,000 MG a day. Then I started insulin injections at 60 units, twice a day. Though I tried to modify my diet and exercise more, I couldn’t seem to make enough of a dent to feel any better, and I didn’t have the motivation to do anything about it.
That all changed in 2018, when I went to the hospital for what I thought was a routine health history and physical for foot surgery. Instead, I was released from the hospital about a week later after the doctor discovered an 85% blockage in one of my carotid arteries and recommended major surgery. Combined with the diabetes medication regimen, increasingly achy knees, and a general sense of not being an active participant in my own health, it was all too much. I decided right then that I needed to do something drastic to get healthy.
My doctor referred me to a dietician and a pharmacist, and we worked together to lose some weight and lower my daily insulin. At the time, I was injecting 60 units twice a day, which was lowered to 10 units twice a day with their help. Still, it was more than I would like, and I was also carrying around more weight than I was comfortable with.
Just by chance, I discovered Dr. Sarah Hallberg’s TedTalk on Youtube one night, and her approach to nutrition and challenging the status quo fell right in line with my beliefs. So, I began to follow Virta Health, which was how I found a webinar that Virta hosted for VA providers and patients. I learned that Virta had a partnership with the VA to provide free treatment to the first 400 Veterans to enroll.
I jumped at the chance and told my Virta enrollment advisor that I was very eager to get started as soon as possible. She definitely heard me because she worked tirelessly to expedite my enrollment so I could start Virta within a matter of days. I’m also very appreciative for the VA’s partnership with Virta Health, which made the treatment free for me.
During my enrollment, I gave Dr. Stanley at Virta about 2 weeks’ worth of my biomarker data. He took a look, talked me through my numbers, and immediately cut my 10 units to 5. The attention he paid to my information made me feel confident that I was in good hands.
While I thought I was doing just OK before I joined Virta, I am happy to report that Virta took my achievements to another level. Even though I had already lost 25 pounds before starting the treatment, I continued to lose weight in the first few weeks of starting. I am now down 15 additional pounds; my weight and waistline are the same as they were back in high school!
My numbers are even more exciting. My A1c level went from 6.7% to 5.0% in just 90 days of treatment, and my fasting glucose has been averaging 105 mg/dL, even though I am completely off the insulin. As a matter of fact, I stopped taking all diabetes medications, including my Levemir (insulin) injections and 2,000 MG of metformin after just one month on the Virta treatment. Before, I could not imagine a day where I no longer had to take diabetes medications to control my blood sugar, yet here I am.
Not only has my health improved dramatically, but so has my overall well-being. For one thing, there’s the freedom from my twice daily insulin injections. My clothes fit better. Climbing the stairs is easier, and I simply do more things, like go to the gym three or four times a week. The other day, I set a personal record of 40 minutes on the elliptical machine, and it felt fantastic.
Of course, not every day is like that. Sometimes, my numbers don’t look as good as the day before, or my weight goes up without explanation. What I tell myself during these times is to remember, and celebrate, the successes I have seen. That’s what I tell the Virta patient community as well: celebrate all successes, large and small, because they will help you through the rough patches.
My Virta care team really makes the treatment doable for me, which keeps me successful and on track. My Virta doctor and health coach work together to closely supervise my treatment, and provide personalized guidance that works with my life. I never have to wonder if I am doing the right thing safely.
I’ve learned about so many new and delicious foods from my Virta coach. They taught me the joys of chaffles, which I now describe as a food revolution. Just eggs and mozzarella in a waffle maker, and you’ll never look back. I now have 3 waffle makers at home so I can get breakfast going at a moment’s notice!
All of this is possible because the Veterans Administration and Virta Health decided to work together to give Veterans like me the life-changing opportunity to reverse this awful disease. I feel like it’s finally come full circle–my military service focused on saving the lives of our brave soldiers, and I am pretty sure the VA just saved mine.