She had no idea she was diabetic until she sought help from Amanda Loveless, health nurse, at the Polk County Health Department in Rockmart.
“I was feeling bad and could not understand why,” Fennell said. “I was always tired and had frequent headaches but never considered diabetes since none of my immediate family have had the disease. When I had my blood sugar checked, it was 291. That is really high.”
Thereafter, she was referred to Sara Heath, nurse practitioner at Polk Primary Care Center, Cedartown.
Fennell began taking medication and is now checking her blood sugar each morning, noon and night.
“I am now feeling better and have lost five pounds,” she said.
In addition, she has changed her lifestyle and said she has more energy to care for her children. She takes them to the park and participates in fun activities for exercise.
She also measures and eats smaller portions at each meal. She now refrains indulging in her fondness for chocolate.
Previously, Fennell would eat three big chocolate cookies at once. She no longer yields to this temptation. In fact, she has discovered she is fond of sugar free Popsicles.
“If you don’t feel well and are showing any symptoms of diabetes, then find a doctor and get your blood sugar checked,” she said.
Symptoms include in-creased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, blurred vision, slow-healing sores, mild high blood pressure, infections of the gum, skin, vaginal or bladder.
Large numbers affected
According to Northwest Georgia Public Health, more than 32,000 people in Northwest Georgia are known to have diabetes. This includes residents in the following counties: Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Paulding,Polk and Walker.
In addition, the Georgia Department of Community Health's statistics show that Polk County has one of the highest rates in the state, with more than 11 percent of the population diagnosed with diabetes.
None of the other counties in the Northwest Georgia region are ranked that high. For example, Bartow County had the lowest number in the region, with less than 7 percent of the population diagnosed with the disease.
Free help is available
To educate people like Fennell, a free diabetes class is held at 6 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month at Polk Medical Center. For information, call 1-877-532-4545.
Sara Heath and Julia Celedon, program assistant, work at Polk Primary Center, which serves low-income, uninsured residents of Polk. Cost is based on a sliding fee scale according to income.
Services offered include non-emergency bi-lingual primary care, blood pressure screening, treatment, management and follow up, blood sugar checks, diabetic management and nutrition education, treatment, management and follow up of minor illnesses, cancer screenings and referrals and more.
The clinic is made possible with a three-year $375,000 grant from Health Resources & Services Administration under the Rural Health Outreach Program, according to Malindy Ely, nurse manager, Polk Health Department.
She also said the clinic would not be possible without community support, including partners Polk Medical Center and Harbin Clinic.
Ely is a member of the Polk Primary Care Center Consortium, which meets quarterly and provides leadership and support. Members are Kim Scoggins, administrator; Missy Puckett, director of Nursing; Dr. Heather Pryor, physician with Harbin Clinic; Virginia Latham, director, Polk DFCS; Rhonda Heuer, coordinator, Polk Family Connection; and Margaret Bean, program manager, NWGA Public Health District.
The group hopes to transition the clinic into a federal funded health care center. If this designation is received, the funding will be ongoing.
An application for an $80,000 planning grant for a health care center will be submitted this month. Grant recipients will be announced in August. If Polk receives this money, it will provide for a consultant and planning coordinator. They would conduct a community needs assessment and build a foundation for the transition into a federal funded health care center.
Note: Other information about diabetes, including a map showing the prevalence of diabetes throughout Georgia is available at the DCH website.