Taking Control

Patient Perspectives Gary Harris

August 23, 2018

A team of experts teaches a Laurence Harbor man how to manage his diabetes.

In December 2016, Gary Harris, 60, stood up and his right leg suddenly gave out on him. “It felt like it turned to spaghetti,” the Laurence Harbor resident recalls.

Gary’s wife, Selma, called an ambulance, which took him to a local emergency department. There, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when a lack of insulin leads to a buildup of acids, called ketones, in the bloodstream. “The doctors told me I’d probably been diabetic for years without knowing it,” Gary says.

Educating Patients

After his hospital stay, Gary made an appointment with Dragana Jokic, M.D., an endocrinologist at the Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group Diabetes Center, at Raritan Bay Medical Center– Old Bridge.

“We spend a lot of time educating patients about their disease, teaching them how to check their blood sugar and working to find the most effective treatments for them,” Dr. Jokic shares. “Our dietitians work one-on-one with patients to help them learn about changes they need to make to their diets and guiding them through that process.”

Gary found the care he received from Dr. Jokic, certified diabetes educators and dietitians to be incredibly helpful for gaining control over his condition. “In the beginning, I had to test my blood sugar four times per day,” he recalls. “I’d record my numbers in a log and bring it with me to appointments.”

He took two kinds of insulin several times per day in order to keep his blood sugar within a healthier range. Working with a dietitian, he learned that he needed to significantly cut down on his sugar intake — especially the soda and fruit juice he frequently drank.

'A Really Great Place'

Today, more than a year and a half since his diagnosis, Gary has shed 20 pounds. He only has to check his blood sugar two or three times per week, and he no longer requires insulin. He follows up with Dr. Jokic every five months.

Gary thanks God for his recovery, and credits the efforts of his care team. “I can’t say enough good things about the Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group Diabetes Center,” he says. “Everyone there is an expert in what they do, but more importantly, they’re personable and friendly. It’s a really great place and I feel fortunate to have found them.”

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