Dennis Taylor doesn’t hesitate when it comes to looking out for other people. When Taylor learned that Tanner Health System’s Get Health, Live Well initiative would be providing free health screenings at Piney Grove Baptist Church in Carrollton; he encouraged his fellow church members to get checked out.
He was so busy making sure everyone else got an assessment done that he almost didn’t get one. “I started not to,” Taylor said. “I was about to get in the church van.” As he made his way outside and prepared to start taking people home, he paused. “I’m like, ‘Is it that important?’” Taylor said. He would soon learn the answer to that question. Taylor is no stranger to tragedy.
Two of his brothers, both diabetic, died after suffering heart attacks. Another brother died after suffering complications from diabetes. His late mother was also diabetic.
“All of my uncles and aunts —everybody is diabetic,” Taylor said.
Through the years, he’s watched as family members had to undergo surgical procedures to remove limbs and toes. One of his cousins just recently had her leg amputated.
“I have one aunt left and right now she’s dealing with the same thing,” Taylor said.
Even with a family history of diabetes, he wasn’t concerned about his health.
“I thought, ‘No, not me,’ because I feel good,” he said.
Instead of leaving the church that day without getting screened, Taylor decided to take his own advice. During the screening, he found that his blood sugar level had reached over 500 milligrams per deciliter. A normal fasting blood sugar level is below 100.
Isaac Vargas, DO, was at the screening event and recommended a shot of insulin, but Taylor declined.
“The doctor said, ‘If you were in my office young man, you’d get a shot,’” Taylor said.
He avoided getting a shot that day, but after the screening, he had an appointment to see Lee Stringfellow, MD, a board-certified internist with West Georgia Internal Medicine. He ended up getting an insulin shot, but didn’t leave the doctor’s office without making a declaration.
“I said, ‘You know, in six months, I’m not going to do this. I’m going to get better,’” Taylor said.
It’s now six months later and Taylor is doing much better. After revamping his diet and exercising more, he has reduced the amount of medication he’s taking. His ultimate goal is to not have to take anymore insulin shots.
One of the things he’s done to revamp his diet is drink less soda.
“I probably drank two or three two-liter drinks a day,” Taylor said. “I go to bed with a soda on the side of my nightstand. I wake up through the night and drink. Then after all this went down, I said, ‘It’s the drinks,’ so I stopped and slowed down. I went to a Coke Zero – that’s my best friend – and lots of water.”
He is also staying away from a lot of the fried foods he used to eat. To increase his physical activity, he started walking more. He now walks three miles every day.
Through diet and exercise, Taylor has lost eight and a half pounds.
He is continuing to work toward his health goals and is taking a Living Well With Diabetes class provided by Get Healthy, Live Well. The classes combine coaching from a certified educator, learning materials and small-group support to help get participants on the path to better health.
One thing he’s learning in the class is how to read food labels.
“A couple of nights ago, I was going to buy something and this lady says, ‘Boy, do you see how much sodium and how much sugar is in that stuff?’” Taylor said. “I said, ‘Yeah, you’re right,’ so I put it back.”
Jamie Brandenburg, a chronic disease outreach coordinator for Get Healthy, Live Well, co-led the class in which he participated.
“Even though Mr. Taylor has a history of diabetes in his family, he’s not letting that discourage him from improving his health,” said Brandenburg.
She is impressed by how well Taylor is doing, but isn’t surprised by the successes he’s had so far.
“He has immersed himself in the class and it’s amazing how far he has come,” Brandenburg said. “He is not only taking the lessons he’s learning and implementing them in his own life, he is sharing his knowledge with others so they can take control of their health.”
Taylor admits that if Tanner hadn’t come to his church six months ago and screened him for diabetes, he may not be here today.
“With what I’m learning now, I’m trying to do better to be here for my kids, grandkids and family,” Taylor said. “You got them little grandbabies running around there saying, ‘Poppa, we need this. Poppa, buy me that,’ so I got to try to do for those kids and be here.”
The lessons Taylor has learned in the past six months are being passed down to his grandkids. His granddaughter is enrolled in Get Healthy, Live Well’s Kids N Fitness class — a free, healthy lifestyle program for children ages 8 to 16 and their parents.
By taking steps now to live a healthy lifestyle, Taylor’s granddaughter is heading down a road to health free of obstacles like diabetes.
To find upcoming Living Well With Diabetes classes, search the calendar at www.GetHealthyLiveWell.org.
For Immediate Release
Dec. 21, 2015
Contact: Amanda Thomas