Baseball great Lou Brock leads Diabetes Day at Doctors Medical Center

on November 16, 2014

To combat diabetes in West Contra Costa County, Doctors Medical Center (DMC) held a public diabetes forum offering tips to help patients manage life with the disease – and even drafted a major league baseball star to help drive home the message.

All-star left-fielder and diabetic Lou Brock from the St. Louis Cardinals, led the slate of medical care specialists who brought their expertise, recipes and shared first hand, consequences caused by diabetes. When he learned of his diagnosis, Brock was also informed that one of his organs was shutting down and asked himself, “what else is about to stop if I don’t get my blood sugar count down?”

Diabetes is a family of disorders in which the body either doesn’t make or doesn’t use insulin properly to convert sugar into energy, causing a rise in blood sugar levels that can lead to organ damage or death. Type 1 is caused by immune system problems, while Type 2, the most common type, can be triggered by obesity and inactivity.

The part of Contra Costa County served by DMC is saturated with high levels of diabetes diagnoses and deaths related to the disease. The forum was an effort to urge the community to take a proactive role in diabetes management. LifeLong Medical Care (LMC), a Berkeley health and social service organization, collaborated with the West Contra Costa Healthcare District and commercial vendors in presenting the forum.

A report by Contra Costa Health Services titled, “The Impact of Sugar Sweetened Beverage Consumption on the Health of Richmond Residents,” highlighted the disproportionate rates of obesity and diabetes illness and mortality in the West County. “Residents of San Pablo and Richmond are more likely to die from diabetes compared to Contra Costa as a whole,” the 2011 document said.

Health educator Karla Rios with Lifelong Medical Care talks about "Rethinking Your Drink". (Photo by Gabriel J. Sanchez)20141111_KARLARIOS_Sanchez

Health educator Karla Rios with Lifelong Medical Care talks about “Rethinking Your Drink”. (Photo by Gabriel J. Sanchez)

Nationwide 25.8 million Americans have diabetes and about “7 million of them don’t even know that they are diabetic,” Karla Rios a lead healthcare educator with LMC, said. West County citizens bear a heavier burden of obesity, diabetes and death from the disease than do other Contra Costa residents.

In a demonstration called Rethinking Your Drink, Rios used canned and bottled soft drinks to demonstrate the amount of sugar that people consume in their beverages. A bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of Sunny Delight orange drink were also used to show that it’s not just the carbonated sodas that contain high amounts of sugar.

The crowd expressed shock in discovering the amount of sugar consumed when drinking a soda or sports drink.

“How many of you put two or three packets of sugar in your coffee? Well you drink nine packs of sugar when you drink this,” Rios said, holding a soda bottle. She urged people to drink more water.

Eileen Stephens, a health care education volunteer, encouraged stress management for everyone, not just those living with diabetes.

“If you are the person charged with managing your diabetes you are the person charged with managing your stress levels,” she said, leading the audience in a meditation.

The crowd at the Diabetes Day Celebration Event enjoys their low sugar and low sodium Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding. (Photo by Gabriel J. Sanchez)

The crowd at the Diabetes Day Celebration Event enjoys their low sugar and low sodium Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding. (Photo by Gabriel J. Sanchez)

The pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, a maker of diabetes treatments, sponsored Brock’s appearance at DMC to lend his sports star power to the push for diabetes control in a community at risk.

Brock delivered a testament to taking hold of and managing diabetes as a team effort between himself, doctors and his family.

In his rookie season Brock played for the Chicago Cubs and had his first encounter with diabetes when teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Ron Santo injected himself with insulin in the team clubhouse.

Diabetes became personal for Brock at the age of 40. The two-time World Series Champion was told that he had a blood sugar count of over 700, whereas a normal count is below 140 two hours after eating. But even that didn’t generate a sense of urgency with Brock, who said he was in denial “until the doctor said, ‘Your pancreas has stopped working.’ ”

Brock described his first visit to a dietitian, trying to develop a healthy and sustainable regimen, who told him, “Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life.”

Diet was the lead culprit in his diabetes diagnosis, Brock said.

“A plate of veggies was a plate of French fries with cheese all over them. Those days are gone,” he said. “Now, I eat broccoli.”

To reinforce the anti-diabetes message, organizers passed out gifts like jump ropes and children’s coloring books in English and Spanish demonstrating healthy living, along with snacks of fruit and cheese with bottled water.

Recipe and instructions for Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding. (Graphic by Lakshmi Sarah)

Recipe and instructions for Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding. (Graphic by Lakshmi Sarah)

Presenters offered the audience tips to rethink rich holiday treats by offering dishes like Pumpkin Pie Chia Pudding, a more healthful Thanksgiving dessert that is lighter on sugar and salt than traditional fare.

On Nov. 18, Brock and the all-star team of diabetes management professionals will be providing screenings and educating the community of Oakland on how to strike out diabetes. The event begins at 11:30 a.m. in the Bechtel Room at the Samuel Merritt University Health Education Center on 400 Hawthorn Avenue in Oakland.

Click the player to hear the audio version of the story.

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