Katrina Enderle, PA-C’13, a physician assistant at Prairie Ridge Hospital and Health Services in Elbow Lake, MN, has developed an innovative Diabetes Wellness Program (called THRIVE) designed to make living with diabetes low maintenance enough so people are more comfortable with it.
Being diabetic herself, she has a special empathy with her patients.
“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was nine years old,” the Fergus Falls, MN, native said. “From the very beginning, I administered my own shots because my parents wanted me to be independent.”
Enderle developed an interest in the medical field because of her close contact with the providers who treated her.
“I was lucky to have such caring providers and parents.”
Type I, or juvenile onset, diabetes usually strikes young people, but you can get it as old as 40. It means the body produces no insulin at all, and insulin has to be injected into the patient.
Type 2, or adult onset, diabetes, means the patient has a resistance to insulin. This can often be treated orally, but sometimes injections are needed also. It is usually associated with age, weight or genetics.
Insulin, which is produced in the pancreas, is a hormone that causes the cells in the liver, muscle and fat tissue to take up glucose from blood and convert it to glycogen that can be stored in the liver and muscles. It also prevents the utilization of fat as an energy source. Without insulin, the body begins to use fat as an energy source.
“Diabetes is hard to treat, so I developed the Diabetes Wellness Program for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes patients,” Enderle said. “The program facilitates learning so the patient knows what they are doing and why.”
Central to the Diabetes Wellness Program is the iPro, a one-inch square chip that measures blood sugar levels over a seven-day period. When the data are downloaded onto Enderle’s computer, she can see when blood sugar levels spike or drop and program an insulin pump for the patient that will finetune dosages.
“We can tailor treatment and program the pump to act like an artificial pancreas.”
The Diabetes Wellness Program also includes a support group that meets once a month, membership in the Wellness Center, and a diet component.
“Diet really affects Type 2 diabetes, and I educate patients on healthy meals, portion size and what to avoid.”
Exercise is also important, as the heart, blood vessels and internal organs are all affected by diabetes, and exercise helps control blood sugar, lose weight and control blood pressure so patients can take less, or in some cases, no medication. In the Diabetes Wellness Program, weight, blood pressure, etc. are charted and closely monitored.
“Diabetes is an all-encompassing disease; it is complex and treating it means a lifestyle change. The support group helps with that,” Enderle said. “They see that they are not alone. I know what they are going through.”
So far she has around 20 Type 2 diabetics in the program and a few Type 1 diabetics, but it is growing.
“I’m excited to see it expand. Diabetes treatment has changed a lot in the 18 years since I was diagnosed, and it is still changing all the time.”
Article and photo by: C.A. Ray, Grant County Herald, Elbow Lake, MN. Reprinted with permission.