A deep dive into diabetes in Arkansas | Wear the Gown

With the help of Laura O’Hern, endocrinology physician assistant at CHI St. Vincent Little Rock, we are describing diabetes.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In order to fully understand today’s gowns topic, we first have to visit a factory. Let’s just say this is a factory that processes sugar, but it’s a factory where all the workers don’t show up and you show up with a truck load of sugar that needs to go into the factory.

“It’s going to be much harder for that factory that’s already on short staff to process a lot at one time,” Dr. O’Hern said.

With the help of Laura O’Hern, endocrinology physician assistant at CHI St. Vincent Little Rock, we have just described diabetes.

“It inherently comes down to the body is unable to process sugar in the normal way,” Dr. O’Hern said.

To show how widespread it is in Arkansas, Dr. O’Hern has another analogy.

“If you’re in a room right now with any more than two other people, then the chances are that one of you has diabetes or pre-diabetes, that’s serious,” she said. “That’s a large percentage of the population.”

With diabetes you have to see your doctor regularly. It’s a progressive disease that only gets worse over time.

“Without a pandemic on board, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, and lower limb amputation in the United States,” Dr. O’Hern said.

That takes us back to our factory, where you can learn a valuable lesson.

“You can control how much sugar you deliver to that defective factory at any time,” she said.

CHI St. Vincent, like most clinics, are up and running and willing to help while observing pandemic protocols, and once you make a commitment to improve, you change your life’s trajectory.

“I had a patient who came to me at the beginning of the year to talk about their diet,” Dr. O’Hern said. “This patient was on over 300 units of insulin a day and multiple other diabetes meds plus had hypertension, high cholesterol, lots of problems.”

Hopeless? No. A low-carb diet, exercise and monitoring with checkups and consultations, what had begun in January 2020 with expensive insulin and a bleak future had reached the magical point where he didn’t need to worry about his factory.

“At ten months later, this individual is now completely off of al insulin with a nearly normal Hemoglobin A1c and he achieved this with dietary control,” Dr. O’Hern said. “And the weight loss came with him getting his diet into line, so I was incredibly inspired by that story.”

Note that he was not alone.

“It’s just so much better when we do it together as a community,” she said.

One final word about the classic early symptoms of diabetes: A lower energy level, and dry mouth. If that has been bothering you, call your primary care physician or CHI St. Vincent for help.