National Nurses Week: Triumphing over a sudden diabetes diagnosis

In honor of National Nurses Week, we are publishing stories featuring some of our nurse case managers, who bring skill, compassion and professionalism to their work every day.

 
A Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts member says a team of nurse case managers at the health plan gave him hope after he was blindsided by a difficult diagnosis. 

Last New Year’s Day, Michael Grimm didn’t understand what was happening. The 29-year-old triathlete and Augusta, Ga., resident was hospitalized for fatigue and unexplained weight loss after he dropped 25 pounds in five weeks. He was barely able to stand upright. 

When the doctor told Grimm he had type 1 diabetes, he was shocked. With a background in medical sales for a Massachusetts-based company, Grimm had seen the effects of diabetes but never thought he would have the condition. After all, he ate well and exercised. 

He needed answers and information. 

“I left the hospital uneducated, uninformed and scared that I wouldn’t be able to live a life with diabetes,” Grimm said. 

A few days after he was discharged, Grimm was surprised to get a call from Blue Cross Nurse Case Manager Milly Hawke. Hawke, a registered nurse who is certified in diabetes education, regularly follows up with members like Grimm to ensure they understand their diagnosis and how best to manage their condition after discharge from the hospital. Grimm would later say taking that first call was the best decision he had made since falling ill. 

During the next two months, Grimm spoke with Hawke and Blue Cross Dietician Nancy Dowling nine times and got answers to questions including the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, signs of high and low blood sugar, the best foods to eat to manage his condition, and local resources in Georgia. 

In a thank-you note Grimm wrote last spring, he said he was immensely grateful for the help he received from Hawke and Dowling.

“I know I will never be able to express the amount of gratitude I feel for the time, patience, education, knowledge and overall care that Nancy and Mildred demonstrated these past two months,” he wrote. “They have been tremendous! I have connected better with them, over the phone, than I did in person with hospital staff. Thanks to them, I consider myself the same person I have always been. Yes I have type 1 diabetes, but I also have brown hair and eyes. I have a long road ahead with type 1 diabetes, a lifetime in fact, but if I run into people like these two women, I know I can live a life to the fullest. Thank you Nancy, Mildred, and the rest of the Diabetic Education Services of Blue Cross Blue Shield!”

A year after his hospital stay, Grimm said he is “in a good place with diabetes.” He’s still exercising and instead of eating the occasional fast food meal for lunch, he opts for a kale salad. “I’m more encouraged with every day that passes.” 

He said this experience also taught him an important lesson: “If there’s one thing I can share with others, it’s don’t be afraid to speak with people who can help you.”

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