Diabetes is a disease that affects a large number of people in Fresno County. One local outreach minister has made it his mission to educate people in communities about diabetes, because in 2019 he was diagnosed with it and knows the complications all too well.
At the Community Diabetes Education center, patients like Legger Thompson meet with a registered dietitian and diabetes educator to learn how to take control of their diabetes diagnosis.
Legger is a charter bus driver. Two years ago, his poor dietary habits caught up with him.
“How I really think I got it is, because I never ate on time. I would just go like hours of driving… Sometimes I would go like six hours with nothing just maybe some water… and if i did eat something it would be like sweets like some candy,” said Legger.
He was shocked when he was told he had Type 2 Diabetes, a disease that affects many in the San Joaquin Valley. In fact, the counties of Fresno, Madera, Tulare, and Kings have diabetes death rates higher than the state average, and among the highest in the state.
Legger continued, “So first thing I start thinking about was amputation.”
Legger and his wife Izetta are also outreach ministers and the founders of LIT Ministries, an acronym of both their first names and last. They work with people in homeless shelters and women’s shelters, and noticed a disturbing trend, especially in the African American and Hispanic communities.
Izetta added, “People get diabetes and they don’t get educated properly you know I see a lot of people in wheelchairs because they got their legs cut off, I see a lot of people with their arms cut off, and these people are on the streets and they’re homeless and I think because they don’t get the proper education they don’t go to their doctors like they should.”
Diabetes complications can include nerve damage and poor blood circulation, and in worse cases, those untreated complications can lead to an amputation of the foot or leg. Fresno County has the third highest rate of amputations due to diabetes among California counties.
To manage his own diabetes, Legger began meeting with Diabetes Care and Education Specialist Rosalva “Rose” Reyes.
Rose said, “The more they know about the disease, the more that they will take care of themselves. Once he learned that, he became very motivated and very eager just to make changes, and he has in fact, he started with me in August on medication and by November. It improved so much that he discontinued the medication.”
Rose taught him how to tell the difference between carbohydrates and sugars, how to put together a well balanced meal, and about portion control. But the work didn’t stop there. Legger and Izetta realized, not only could they spread faith, they could teach people in the communities they reach about the dangers of diabetes.
“It was such a blessing to me and it helped me in my life that I can be a spokesperson… I don’t care how much we preach to ’em and do all that, if you ain’t eating right and drinking some water, you’re gonna perish,” stated Legger.
Rosalva said she couldn’t be more proud of Legger and knows his word can go far in our community.
She added, “I felt that, as he was learning, he was not only learning for himself but he was also wanting to take the education to others, I’m hoping that through him others will get the same awareness that diabetes is a manageable disease.”
For more information on the diabetes programs offered at Community Medical Centers, call (559) 459-1763, click here, or talk to your doctor about a referral to Community Diabetes Education.