A Real Lifesaver
On Diabetes Alert Day, Share What You Know About Diabetes. You Just Might Save A Life.
It's a good thing Kiki Vale was running late that day in the winter of 2007. The Chicago radio talk show host was dropping her son off at school when she ran into her daughter's former teacher Felicia Panatera. Thinner than ever and feeling horrible, Panatera described her symptoms: incessant thirst, frequent urination, major weight loss. Vale urged her to see a doctor right away. She did, and learned that her blood glucose was above 500: She had type 1 diabetes.
Like so many people with undiagnosed diabetes, Panatera knew that something was wrong but couldn't pinpoint the problem. Busy running a family and a career, she was certainly aware of changes in her body—yet they all seemed to have some other explanation.
"I was having trouble reading, but we attributed it to my eyes changing with age," Panatera says. "I was losing weight, but I thought it was my thyroid. I had problems with one of my toes, but I was in the ice rink a lot because my son plays hockey, so my foot doctor went with that."
But Vale, a volunteer with the American Diabetes Association, knew exactly what to look for—and she saw it in Panatera. And for the 5.7 million Americans who have diabetes and don't know it, this knowledge can be a lifesaver. This annual American Diabetes Alert Day, Tuesday, March 24, the Association will be sharing information about diabetes and asking Americans, "Are you or a loved one at risk for diabetes?" All it takes is a conversation like Vale's and Panatera's to make the difference in someone's life.
"If there was one thing I could change, it would be to have gone [to the doctor] sooner," says Panatera. "Had it not been for Kiki, I probably would have waited, but she kept telling me, 'You can't wait.' "
For Vale, diabetes is something she sees in her daily life. Her mother and all four of her mother's siblings have diabetes. After her mother was diagnosed at 52, Vale started learning more about the disease and participating in ADA events—her Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes team is a top fund-raiser in Chicago each year. Now, Panatera walks with Vale at Step Out, and they even teamed up to provide diabetes education to the community in another way—on the radio.
"When Felicia was diagnosed, I invited her on my show and did a roundtable with her, a doctor, and an educator from ADA," says Vale. "[Panatera] tested [my blood glucose] right there on the show."
Vale also provides fitness tips on her show's Web site (www.kikivale.com), encourages her kids to cut back on computer and TV time in favor of physical activity, and keeps healthier foods in the house.
"My entire family tries to make better nutritional choices," Vale says. "[Diabetes] made us aware of how important and precious our health is."