Blessed Assurance: Success Despite the Odds

by Jacquie Lewis-Kemp, Author & Health Coach for Living life with diabetes and organ transplants, rather than limiting life because of them.

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“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech to the Medical Committee for Human Rights, 1966

Today we observe the birthday of slain Civil Rights champion the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It is natural that many measure the impact of what Dr. King brought to citizens of the United States and the world by comparing conditions during the Civil Rights movement with conditions today.

I think many will agree that landmark legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were stellar outcomes from the movement focusing America on equal treatment and mandating that certain unalienable rights be protected–not just for some, but for everyone.

However when we take a look at what Dr. King had to say about healthcare in the 1960s and compare our country’s statistics today, some fifty years later, have we improved? Are those unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness protected?

Al Sharpton said “It’s an atrocity that in a country as powerful as the United States, people are falling ill, losing their homes and going bankrupt all because of a corrupt system that only benefits insurance conglomerates and those in their pockets. Why is it that the U.S. life expectancy today still lags behind 30 other nations? Why does a hard-working factory worker in the Midwest have to choose which finger to amputate because he could not control his diabetes in time? Why does a teenager in California have to die because her insurance company gave her the run around when she was seeking treatment for her aggressive cancer? And why are so many forced to travel to Mexico, Canada and England to get cheaper medicine and better treatment for their ailments?”

The 2010 Report on Healthcare Disparities reports four themes from that emphasize the need to accelerate progress if the nation is to achieve higher quality and more equitable health care in the near future.

  1. 1. Health care quality and access are suboptimal, especially for minority and low-income groups.
  2. 2. Quality is improving; access and disparities are not improving.
  3. 3. Urgent attention is warranted to ensure improvements in quality and progress on reducing disparities with respect to certain services, geographic areas, and populations, including:

  • o Cancer screening and management of diabetes.
  • o States in the central part of the country.
  • o Residents of inner-city and rural areas.
  • o Disparities in preventive services and access to care.

Progress is uneven with respect to eight national priority areas:

  • o Two are improving in quality: (1) Palliative and End-of-Life Care and (2) Patient and Family Engagement.
  • o Three are lagging: (3) Population Health, (4) Safety, and (5) Access.
  • o Three require more data to assess: (6) Care Coordination, (7) Overuse, and (8) Health System Infrastructure.
  • o All eight priority areas showed disparities related to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

Disparities in quality of care are common:

  • o Blacks and American Indians and Alaska Natives received worse care than Whites for about 40% of core measures.
  • o Asians received worse care than Whites for about 20% of core measures.
  • o Hispanics received worse care than non-Hispanic Whites for about 60% of core measures.
  • o Poor people received worse care than high-income people for about 80% of core measures.

This is a bleak report of circumstances and can be overwhelming unless we begin to peel these issues back one layer at a time and begin to make progress so that in the next fifty years we are not in this same position as a country.

The way I see the major causes of the healthcare disparities, they can be described as 1) Genetic causes or predisposition to illnesses, 2) Environmental causes of disease, 3) Education to prevent or maintain illness, and 4) Access to good healthcare. My ideas to close these disparities include the following:

Genetic causes or predisposition to certain illnesses

Closing the gap on genetic predisposition to certain illnesses is something that research scientists will have to explore and not something that we can change other to be informed about healthy practices and possible prevention. What will be paramount to obtaining the proper research of these diseases is to train scientists, researchers and policy officials with an inherent desire to repair these inequities. An example of a disease with genetic predisposition is African Americans and Sickle Cell Anemia.

Environmental causes of disease

Environmental causes of disease include many cases of Type 2 Diabetes and complications of diabetes, certain types of heart disease and hypertension. Let’s deal with this section in two major categories: diabetes and heart disease.

Type 2 diabetes, unlike Type 1, is usually caused by a significant gain in weight such that the body cannot produce enough insulin or what is called insulin resistance, whereby the insulin cannot be used efficiently by the body. If the causes of this type of diabetes are not diagnosed and treated in short order, it is likely that the patient will need to supplement or provide insulin to the body via insulin injections. Likewise, if the patient is able to lose weight and eat properly, in many cases the diabetes condition can be reversed.

In this case, the environment (with a lack of diabetes education, jobs/income to choose healthy foods, and access to healthcare), works to the detriment of ethnic minorities (because of the disparity in unemployment rate) and particularly the poor.

Heart disease and hypertension are other diseases that exist in large part because of poor food choices, a lack of exercise and education as well as conditions that often go untreated. Stress is another factor that worsens this disease and can exists under conditions of deciding whether to purchase medication or food; strained family relationships or stressful work environments.

It would seem that if our healthcare system spent more dollars on education and prevention, perhaps it would need fewer dollars to treat illness and disease. No one wants to develop diabetes or heart disease. And so it follows that if people knew how they could prevent certain diseases or manage them if they have already developed them, they would begin to transform their environment to include a healthy regimen. This is at least worth a study, in my opinion.

Education and Access to Quality Healthcare

Education in terms of providing understanding of the causes and treatments of the diseases found disproportionately in poor and minority communities is something that should be given increased budgetary consideration at health insurance companies and federal and state governments. It is my belief that if people are given understanding about the diseases that occur disproportionately in their community, they will do what is conceivably possible to avoid them. If they are able to avoid the diseases, and it is verified through access to physicians who verify this, then the dollars spent up front on education and prevention replace and reduce the dollars spent on treating diseases.

For example, if a person diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes is able to control her glucose in large part because she lost weight through a better diet and exercise routine of walking her dog, think of all the money saved (by the insurance company, governments, and the individual) from not treating Diabetic Ketoacidosis, or Neuropathy or Kidney Disease? Think of all the tax dollar revenue governments could collect through her income tax because she was able to continue working.

Not only does education and prevention help reduce healthcare disparities, but it makes good fiscal sense.

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Christmastime is when most of us decorate our homes and invite family and friends over to overeat, laugh and catch up on what has been going on since the last time the group was together.  If you have lost a loved one it is also a time when we remember Christmases past and the fun times we shared.

When I lost my father he was just 52 years old and there was a list of people that I felt God could have taken instead of my father.  Each holiday felt like my shopping list was so short–even though there was only one name removed.  My father-in-law perhaps suffered the most. His birthday was the same day as my father’s. We’d have a birthday dinner for both of them and I would buy similar gifts in different colors–it was fun. But after my father died, I couldn’t bring myself to shop for September 23.

Finally I rationalized in my mind that I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself about having lost my father.  There were many women that I knew who would never know what it was like to have a father like mine.  The old saying that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, is hard to grasp–AND SOMETHING YOU NEVER WANT TO HEAR RIGHT AFTER LOSING SOMEONE.  But in time, I got it.   The impact of my father’s love for me has lasted me and I believe will continue to last for the rest of my life. People (particularly my son) are probably so tired of hearing me say, “What my father used to say about that is . . .”

It’s a good thing that I learned that lesson before losing my mother.  By this time I had received the Gift of Life twice and survived the West Nile virus.  And so what brought me peace was that “things” were not my mother nor did they represent her. But the impact that she had on my life and the lives of so many others, is her legacy.

My brother and I were also fortunate in that  we were able to carry out her final wishes and that was to donate her organs to people who needed them. It is interesting that we did not discuss her wishes during or after our kidney transplant.  But we both knew growing up that both our parents wanted to donate their organs–it was something that they discussed with us as children.

We missed the opportunity when our father died, however we were able to oblige our mother.  Even though it wasn’t my organs that were donated, that we completed my mother’s wishes, felt like I was paying it forward.  One day I will ACTUALLY pay it forward since I am a registered organ donor.

Even though they are not likely to use my brother’s transplanted kidney in my body or my new pancreas, I don’t want to make a medical decision that I’m not qualified to make.  The way I figure it, let me donate the organs when I’m through with them and let the doctors decide who may be able to use them.

IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED AN ORGAN TRANSPLANT, REGISTER TO BECOME AN ORGAN DONOR AND PAY IT FORWARD!

 

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On our parents' balcony before Jacquie's wedding

I can hardly believe that it has been 11 years.  Eleven years since my little brother donated his left kidney to me so that I might live.  In eleven years you would think that I would be pretty used to saying that, but it still brings the same tears to my eyes just writing it.

You know Jeff has never known a big sister without diabetes–taking a shot is what she did everyday, a couple times a day.  But slowing down because of illness is not what he was used to either and I think that is why he stepped up to become the big brother (despite our ages) and save my life.

I had lunch with my husband, mother and brother Jeff to tell them that the doctor recommended that I begin dialysis.  Because I was running my dad’s business at the time, Jeff asked, “What will you do?” I told him I wasn’t sure, perhaps I’d have to find a job.  Jeff piped up with a proclamation that no one expected nor could we proove would be possible.  Jeff said that he would give me a kidney.

We knew that we were the same blood type, but tissue type is another hurdle.  Nevertheless, my hero, my little brother was willing to undergo serious, complicated surgery to save his sister’s life.  And his wife supported his decision.

While all this is serious stuff–we had a ball making light of the process.   From doctors testing us to qualify us for transplant “from the rooter to the tooter”, to Jeff’s journey in the hospital from his room across the hall, to my room with foly catheter in tow and having to remind the newbie nurse that neither he nor the lead in the catheter were as long as the distance between them, so she should slow down.

I will forever be grateful to my little brother.

God bless and keep you Jeff. Much love,

Jac

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MY SWEET LIFE: Successful Women with Diabetes

by Beverly. Adler, PhD, CDE

and friends

 

This book is a collection of life stories – each chapter written by a highly respected successful woman with diabetes.  This group of diverse women share their stories how they find balance between managing their careers and/or family AND managing their diabetes.

MY SWEET LIFE is compiled by Dr. Beverly S. Adler who is also one of those women.  “Dr. Bev” as she is better known, is a clinical psychologist and Certified Diabetes Educator in private practice, specializing treating patients with diabetes and also has had Type 1 Diabetes for 36 years.  All those years ago when she was diagnosed, there were no role models with diabetes for her. This book is geared for women with diabetes who need role models who can inspire them. The book  is written for the newly diagnosed woman with diabetes who is overwhelmed with her diagnosis.  Or, for the woman who has had diabetes for a while, but can also benefit from uplifting, inspirational stories to encourage and motivate self-care (especially if they already are trying to cope with some complications).

She is joined by 27 contributing authors who are all women of exceptional accomplishments! Each story is unique and heartwarming, as these very special women share their triumph over diabetes. The reader can learn how the women’s experiences with diabetes helped to shape them into who they are today. The forward to the book is written by Nicole Johnson – Miss. America 1999. The theme running through the book is that “diabetes is a blessing in disguise.”

 

 

This book is inspirational, motivational, and uplifting!

 

___________________________________________________________________________

 

Contributing authors (in alphabetical order):

Beverly S. Adler, PhD, CDE

Judith Jones Ambrosini

Brandy Barnes, MSW

Lorraine Brooks, MPH

Fran Carpentier

Sheri R. Colberg-Ochs, PhD

Deanna Glick

Riva Greenberg

Carol Grafford, RD, CDE

*Nicole Johnson (*Writing the Forward to the book)

Sally Joy

Zippora Karz

Kelli Kuehne

Kelly Kunik

Jacquie Lewis-Kemp

Joan McGinnis, RN, MSN, CDE

Laura Menninger (aka “The Glucose Goddess”)

Jennifer Nash, PhD

Vanessa Nemeth, MS, MA

Alexis Pollak

Kyrra Richards

Lisa Ritchie

Christina Rowlandson, MS

Mari Ruddy, MA

Cherise Shockley

Kerri Morrone Sparling

Natalie Strand, MD

Amy Tenderich, MA

Heartha Whitlow

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The book ”Blessed Assurance” gives the reader  a sense of admiration and appreciation  for the fortitude and resilience  that Jacquie had going through bouts of illnesses and having hope and faith and believing that through God she would be victorious.

I used her book and its teachings to console a close friend of mine who was depressed because of her own illness. “Blessed Assurance” is a tool for people to learn to have hope in the face of  so many uncertainties. There were many times she prayed for strength and courage to face the many challenges encountered. It
is apparent that God used Jacquie for a purpose to witness and testify to what God can do.

It is through the belief that Christ died so we  may have life, that surely was the basis that kept Jacquie fighting the bouts of  diabetes, and it was though the love displayed by her family that  helped her propel her illness into a platform for success.

 

Barbara Talley

A Friend in Christ

Hope United Methodist Church

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