Diabetes Forecast

Rebekah Tannehill Makes Teaching a Mission

Rebekah Tannehill jogs with her granddaughter, Micah Thomas.

Rebekah Tannehill, RN, had her future pretty much planned out. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in January 1963, she decided at age 11 that she’d be an advocate for people living with the disease. Now, 50 years later, she continues with that mission.

Tannehill, 61, of Heath, Ohio, is a registered nurse at Mount Carmel East Hospital in Columbus. At work and at home, she’s made it her business to help other people learn about diabetes. “I try to educate someone every single day, even if it’s in the grocery store,” she says. “I always bring up the American Diabetes Association, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and their websites.”

In 2003, the ADA backed Tannehill with a personal trainer as she prepared for her first half-marathon fund-raiser (a program that has since gone by the wayside). “This was a big turning point for me,” she says. “I needed a challenge to help me with my diabetes management. I crossed the finish line; I finished my goal. And I raised over $1,000 for the ADA.”

Of course, Tannehill is a volunteer with the ADA—she’s been a Red Strider in Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes®. She has also volunteered as a nurse at ADA events, to provide help in case of a medical emergency. She’s done workplace presentations on recognizing blood glucose lows. She says she champions the Association because it championed her.

Tannehill’s tenacity and dedication to diabetes education have impressed others in her community and in her workplace. Josephine Short, RN, was Tannehill’s manager at Mount Carmel East for several years. During that time, Short says, Tannehill educated patients and medical professionals about diabetes.

“She was a resource for all of us at work,” Short says. “It was just educational to be around her. She’s so easy to talk to and work with. … She went looking for ways to help educate people. She really wanted to get involved.”

Short says Tannehill has always had a passion for younger people with diabetes, having lived herself with diabetes as a child and an adult. Now, Tannehill wants to pass along healthy habits to the next generation.

Tannehill says she hopes to run the Walt Disney World Half Marathon with her granddaughter, Micah Thomas, in the next year. Micah, 12, of Cary, N.C., has prediabetes. Tannehill says she wants to show Micah that she can be fit and healthy with diabetes—and that Micah and her brother, Tré, were both excited to start training with their grandmother, starting with hikes and walks over Christmas break.

“I’m not the most fit person in the world, but I do work very hard on my fitness,” Tannehill says. “I’m very healthy—I feel great. So if I can help someone make a turning point in their life, I would love to do that.”



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