Reversing my diabetes and getting off insulin with a health coach in my pocket
By Charlene, a Virta patient
I was first diagnosed with diabetes in 2015 when I was in the hospital because of an allergic reaction to antibiotics: A nurse came into my room and gave me a shot into my abdomen. I asked her what that was for. She said that it was insulin. I asked her why she was giving me insulin: I was not diabetic. She said, “Now you are. Your A1c is 8.4%, and your blood sugar is close to 400 currently. We need to get it down.” I was in shock. The nurse thought that I knew. That day, I also learned that I had high blood pressure and fatty liver disease.
When I got out of the hospital, I went to the pharmacy to pick up my new prescription of insulin. But when I got there, I was shocked to see the price. My insurance was not going to cover it, because they said that there were other brands that I could get. The pharmacist put me on a different brand that the insurance would pay for. They also gave me a prescription for a blood sugar monitor. I would go through this same frustrating process every time I got a new prescription for my insulin and my test strips. The doctor would prescribe me a branded diabetes medication, insurance wouldn’t pay their portion of the bill, so the pharmacist would have to switch me to one they would pay for.
When I left the hospital, I was on a “sliding scale” for my insulin (Humalog). This meant that if my blood sugar level was at a specific number, I would need to match the units of insulin to get it under control. When I went to the doctor for a follow-up, he suggested talking with a pharmacist to get my blood sugar levels down. I worked with the pharmacist once a week, and we were able to get my blood sugar regulated to around 150 mg/dL before meals. Then they put me on time-release insulin (Basaglar) at night. I started at 15 units; then they increased the dose to 40 units. Taking insulin was hard to get used to and frustrating—I had to check my blood sugar and inject myself with insulin before eating anything.
Before Virta, the only lifestyle change I had tried was following the Atkins diet for a few weeks. I needed to lose weight for a medical procedure that my doctor would not do until I lost 10 pounds. It was hard to follow the Atkins diet on my own, and I was only able to follow it for a few weeks.
I decided to sign up for Virta at the end of January after I received an email telling us about the treatment from my employer, JLL. Before joining Virta, my A1C was around 7.9%, even with all of my insulin. I took three different medications to regulate my high blood pressure. My weight varied, but was generally in the 280+ pound range.
A few days after I started the Virta Treatment, I was taken off the Humalog, my daily insulin. A few weeks later, my Virta provider dropped my night-time insulin, Basaglar, down to 15 units. Then she dropped it down to 8 units, and a couple of days later, down to 4 units. Two days ago my coach texted me, “Char, you are doing so well that we are going to take you off of the Basaglar. Are you okay with this?” I was so excited. I’m off insulin!
After 2 and a half months on Virta, my estimated A1c (based on my daily blood sugars) is 6.3% and my blood pressure is normal (I do still take blood pressure medications). My weight is around 260 now, which is 17 pounds lighter. I took a picture of myself to compare my picture from before my eating change. That is when it hit me. I do look different, and I am not taking any insulin!!
Life is a bit different now. I think that the best parts of the treatment are having a scale that links automatically to the Virta app, having a coach to talk to right in my pocket (I carry her wherever I go!), and the Virta shopping lists and recipes. When my husband and I go grocery shopping, we read food labels together. It’s kind of funny if you think about it. He looks at something and says, “We can eat this!” or, “Ew, stay away from that.” But the lifestyle change has real benefits: I can move better, and I have less pain in my back. I can bend over and pick something off the floor better than I did before. I have fibromyalgia, which is a chronic pain condition. Since starting Virta, I have noticed that my pain flare-ups are less than before. I am hardly hungry, and I found a new best friend, butter!
Before Virta I would say “Oh, I will do that tomorrow, I just don't have the energy to do anything.” Now after just one month, I have the energy to do more, and it keeps increasing every day. Not to mention, I can go shopping for new clothes. The more I lose, the more opportunities I have to look good, and most importantly feel good, both mentally and physically.
I love Virta, but if you want to try it, you have to be honest with yourself. You have to be ready for the change. It is hard at first for most, but well worth it in the long run. My mom will be 89 years old this coming September, and she told me, “Can you believe it? In 11 years I will be 100 years old.” I want to be able to say that. Before Virta, I would not be able to do that: I was heading downhill. I am so excited now that I have changed my life for myself and because I now know that I will be here for my grandchildren.