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That was then, this is now

Innovative treatments make managing diabetes easier
Jim Ferder was diagnosed with diabetes nearly 50 years ago.
Jim Ferder, who was diagnosed with diabetes nearly 50 years ago, said innovative treatment options like his insulin pump make managing the chronic illness much easier.
  When Jim Ferder was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1962 at the age of 19, his doctor came to his hospital room with three small packages. The first contained a glass syringe, the second, a thick needle, and the third, a sharpening stone.

“The doctor told me I had to boil the syringe before each use, and the sharpening stone was for when my needle became dull,” Ferder said. “That was my introduction to diabetes. We didn’t test our blood sugar or see a dietitian. I took one insulin injection each morning that would have to last until the next morning.”

Ferder, now 66, has seen an evolution in the treatment of his type 1 diabetes, a lifelong disease that develops when the pancreas no longer produces insulin. For the past eight years, he has benefited from the latest in technology— an insulin pump—and a team approach to care provided by the Sanford Diabetes Center.

Innovative treatment

Before receiving the pump, the Bismarck man was giving himself six to eight insulin injections a day. Now, he has one needle poke every three days when he changes the site of the pump. The pump, similar in size to a pager, is clipped to his waistband. Insulin is administered through a small tube placed just under the skin. The pump delivers insulin throughout the day and keeps blood sugar levels in range between meals and overnight.

“The pancreas gives us small amounts of insulin continuously when we need it,” said Lyla Timm, a diabetes educator at the
Sanford Diabetes Center who trained Ferder. “The pump continuously secretes insulin, mimicking the natural action of the pancreas and decreasing both high and low blood sugars. Patients have more freedom with what and when they eat than they do with injections.”

In addition to eliminating the need for injections, the pump lowers hemoglobin A1c, a blood sugar measurement that predicts long-term complications including heart disease and stroke, nervous system disease, kidney disease and blindness.

There is no ideal age for acquiring the pump, but there are criteria to be met. Those on an insulin pump have to be willing to monitor their blood sugars, learn to treat both low and high blood sugars and calculate their own doses of insulin. Parents of younger children have to agree to take on those roles.

Ferder describes the pump as a “miracle.” “I feel so much better,” he said. “I am getting insulin 24 hours a day, so it is more like having a working pancreas.”

Better outcomes

When Ferder was diagnosed, he was told about potential complications. “I was in denial and ignored the information that was available, which wasn’t much,” he said.

At 39, he developed diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes resulting from damage to the vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, which can result in blindness.

Despite three operations to attempt to save his vision, he became blind in his left eye. When his right eye started causing problems, he could no longer continue his job with the railroad and went on disability at the age of 55. He had nearly 35 laser treatments and retains some vision in the eye.

“I no longer drive, but I continue with my woodworking hobby,” he said. “Other than my eyesight, I’ve had no other complications.”

  Lyla Timm
Lyla Timm
Diabetes Center

Dawn Meier, FNP
Dawn Meier
Family Nurse Practitioner
When he was up to eight injections a day, he decided it was time to investigate the insulin pump and the services of the Sanford Diabetes Center.

“There is so much involved with diabetes management, and patients can get better support and education from our team approach to help achieve better outcomes,” said Dawn Meier, family nurse practitioner at the Diabetes Center.

The team of nurse practitioners, diabetes educators and dietitians works in collaboration with primary care doctors. Educators provide knowledge in caring for diabetes, dietitians offer nutritional management and nurse practitioners adjust medication and identify issues that need to be addressed by the patient’s doctor.

“Jim is taking ownership for his diabetes and realizing the day-to-day choices he makes affect his outcome,” Meier said. “The benefits patients reap from that effort they put forth for good control is significant.”

“I can’t say enough about the Diabetes Center,” Ferder said. “The entire team and the combination of all the modern technology has made my life so much better.”

Click here for more information on Sanford Diabetes Care Center or call (701) 323-5324.

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