The death of Angela Metts’ oldest son helped her live a better life.
Metts lost her son, Owen Metts Jr., to complications from diabetes in 2020. About a decade ago, Owen was a victim of a shooting in his barbershop and had several health complications that stemmed from that, including amputations and diabetes.
Late last year, a few weeks after Owen’s birthday – the first one after his passing – Metts found herself “eating like a crazy woman” as she grieved her son’s death. She also started feeling dizzy, so she made an appointment with her doctor and learned that she was borderline diabetic.
“I didn’t realize how my diet was wreaking havoc on my body,” she said. “I’ve had hypoglycemia for a long time, but I’ve never crossed that threshold” until last year.
The timing turned out to be perfect: A week before her doctor’s appointment where she learned she was at risk of developing diabetes, Metts heard about NHRMC’S Diabetes Empowerment Education Program, or DEEP, from Pamela Evans, a volunteer health promoter at her church, Saint Luke AME Zion in Wilmington.
Learn more about volunteer health promoters and NHRMC’s Faith Health Network.
The DEEP classes are free and available to anyone. You don’t have to have a referral from a doctor to enroll in the program. You don’t even have to have diabetes. Participants meet for an hour and a half once a week for six weeks, covering eight modules about healthy eating, exercise, and risk factors associated with the disease. It teaches participants who have diabetes (or who are at a high risk for getting it) how to manage their health, and it teaches people who don’t have diabetes how to help their loved ones who do.
The DEEP program is part of NHRMC’s Diabetes Moonshot initiative, which involves various partners working to improve access to care, education and support for those with diabetes. Diabetes educator Victoria Garner, RN, who introduced the program to NHRMC, sees the educational program as a way to shift patients’ perspective into preventive diabetes care, which is an important focus area of the Moonshot initiative.
“Victoria made the classes very fun,” Metts said. “Teaching is her calling. She wasn’t talking at us, she was teaching us.”
And Metts – herself a former educator who still works with the North Carolina Teacher Academy – has taken those lessons to heart.
“When our class did the math on how much sugar is in a taco shell, I came home and threw my hard taco shells in the trash,” Metts said. “I said, ‘We will do lettuce wraps from now on.’”
Metts likes that the DEEP classes help her see some of the nuances in all of the healthy eating advice that many of us are familiar with. For example, she knew that eating fruit was healthy. But for many people who struggle with their blood sugar, certain fruits can send their numbers skyrocketing.
She’s even started educating her family members who have diabetes. She noticed her brother-in-law, who has diabetes, eating a sugary dessert at their family’s Fourth of July gathering. When he told her not to worry, because he’d taken his insulin shot that morning, Metts saw a teachable moment and put her DEEP knowledge into action.
“I got my notebook from class and pointed to the section on medicines,” she said. “I said, ‘Look at what these medicines do to your body. Don’t think that because you took your insulin shot this morning that you’ve done all you needed. That’s a portion of what you needed to do. The other portion is how you eat.’”
Learn more about the DEEP classes here: http://www.nhrmc.org/events/2021/deep-education-classes