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Real People: Orvie - Real People - Diabetes Agent

Amber, 12, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2009 when she was nine. She has used her experience with diabetes as a personal journey of education and empowerment for herself and others. Her younger brother was diagnosed with Type 1 several years before she was, when he was two years old, so Amber had a working knowledge of what it might mean to be diagnosed at such a young age.

Since her diagnosis she has embarked on a path of diabetes advocacy through performance. She has written a song about diabetes and a book, which she also illustrated.

Carlos, 64, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1992. At first, he couldn’t get it through his head that he had diabetes; he describes wanting to do what he wanted to do, regardless of how it would affect his health. Once he settled into his diagnosis, he realized that he did not want the severe side effects of mismanaged diabetes, like amputation or complete loss of eyesight. He started changing little things at a time, starting with his eating habits, which helped him handle the challenges of diabetes management better.

Carlos credits his wife for her great support and encouragement to stay on track. He also enjoys exercise as keeping him going and keeping his blood sugars at good levels.

Dave, 37, was diagnosed in 2010 with Type 2 diabetes. His initial response was to “freak out” and enter, as he describes it, a state of bewilderment and shame. He felt embarrassed, humbled, and scared. He avoided thinking about it, taking the medications only as something he had to do but never checking his blood sugar. He has been in and out of the hospital, and he now works hard to master his diabetes and not succumb to fear.

While he understands and knows the value in eating right, taking his medications, and staying on top of it all, he also knows that he is vulnerable to fatalistic thinking. He is still building a solid support network; some people have been helpful, and some have not, and he recognizes the negative impact a weak support system can have on his health and morale.

Donald, 52, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2008. He describes his diagnosis as “shocking” with an adjustment period that was very difficult and a life change. After his diagnosis, he entered a state of denial where he just told himself that he was going to be fine. However, as he adjusted to his new reality, he noticed that his diabetes was getting worse. He made the clear choice to take control of his treatment.

Now, he manages his diabetes well in ways that allow him to live well with his diabetes. He sees the positives in his diagnosis; for example, he gratefully credits diabetes for helping to turn his eating habits around.

Elizabeth, 50, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1994. She describes her life with diabetes as a daily – sometimes hourly — balancing act. With her background in physical therapy care-giving, Elizabeth feels confident in her ability to manage her diabetes well. She does find that she has different questions, being on the patient side of the doctor-patient interaction. She used to worry about losing a limb, but now, her concerns center on the increased possibility of a heart attack or stroke as she gets older.

Elizabeth feels like her diabetes management has become a good and steady habit. She speaks positively about the role of counseling, both informal and formal, in her diabetes management.

Gene, 58, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2008. He is a very unusual case in that he solely uses lifestyle approach to manage his diabetes. He considers himself an old-fashioned guy who doesn’t like taking many pills. When he was diagnosed, he knew his life wasn’t over, but he also understood that he had to do something to improve his situation. He worked hard to make dietary changes and lost 60 pounds.

Seeing his grandchildren grow up and graduate from high school is one important motivation for managing his diabetes. He also finds inspiration in new hobbies that support his healthy lifestyle changes, like gardening and growing his own vegetables.

Jessica, 25, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1993 when she was 6 years old. She became very ill and went into a coma before her diabetes was discovered. She is now on the insulin pump and is having success with her medications, which is significant because her body has rejected insulin many times. Two years ago, Jessica was diagnosed with neuropathy, and describes herself a “young person in an old person’s body.” Complications are a very real concern for her, especially since they have shown up so early in life.

Despite the odds, she has two children and keeps a positive attitude about treating her diabetes so that she can continue to care for her children. She considers diabetes “one of her best friends,” since it has been a part of her life for so long, and will be with her for the rest of her life.

Luke, 17, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1999 when he was 4 years old. He is quiet about his diabetes with both his parents and his friends. As a child, he was on top of his management, but with time, he admits that it’s gotten harder to keep up with it and take care of himself. He talks about how his diabetes has affected his entire family, especially around making healthier choices in food and lifestyle.

At first, Luke wondered why he had to have diabetes, but he eventually understood that even though he couldn’t change the fact, he could take care of himself.

Orvie Longhorn is different from the other Diabetes Agents. He views his diabetes as yet another challenge to overcome as a Native American. Aside from actual battles in Vietnam, he has battled racism, alcoholism and various medical problems in his life. He worries that diabetes and poor health are almost inevitable for young Native Americans because their modern lifestyles have strayed so far from traditional eating and health habits. Ultimately, he believes that each person's destiny lies in their spiritual health and resiliency.

Priscilla, 61, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2002. She speaks openly about her struggles with diabetes, depression, and finding treatment that worked for her. She has struggled with finding the right medications, relationships with doctors, losing weight, and changing her dietary habits.

She finally saw changes in her test results when she found medication that worked for her. She finds hope in stories of relatives who lived with diabetes into their 90s.

Sarah, 34, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2011. She went into total shock and couldn’t believe that it was possible. She has been vegan for the better part of her live, is an active participant in roller derby, and is extremely healthy. She felt cheated by her diagnosis because, in her words, she had done “everything right.” She was bewildered and anxious. Meeting with a grief group has helped her cope with the sadness of being diagnosed.

Sarah’s partner is also living with Type 1 diabetes; she was diagnosed 16 years ago, when she was 19 years old. She speaks about the positives and negatives of this, as they are in different coping and management phases and they each require different techniques.

Zac, 17, was diagnosed in 2003 at the age of 8 with Type 1 diabetes. Zac is at a pivotal stage with his diabetes management. He is about to graduate from high school and will be moving out of his parents’ home. This transition will require a new level of self-management as Zac moves to a new phase of independence as young adult. Zac has a strong support network, including his family, doctors, and friends and enjoys educating others about diabetes.

Zac feels confident about managing his diabetes, even as he is nervous about being on his own for the first time.

Orvie’s Determination

One Foot in Front of the Other Orvie discusses how determination helped him get out of the hospital after a bad accident left him hospital bound.

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Orvie’s Setbacks

Orvie discusses the challenges and setbacks against which he’s had to fight.

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Orvie Dealing with Diet

Orvie discusses how modern eating habits and temptations have made it difficult for Native Americans to stay healthy.

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Native Americans & Diabetes

Orvie discusses the slow progress Native Americans are making with overcoming rampant diabetes in their culture.

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Orvie Overcoming Alcoholism

Orvie discusses his own fight to quit drinking alcohol and stay sober.

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Orvie’s Concerns for the Future Generations

Orvie discusses the concerns he has for young Native Americans as they move away from traditional ways of living and eating.

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Orvie’s Story

Cutting Through Confusion and Past Pain Orvie discusses his past weight and alcohol problems and the unique struggle of dealing with diabetes as a Native American.

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