Dawn has found comfort in music all her life. When deciding on her career path, her love of performing and sharing music with others struck a chord.
“I didn’t think I was going to be a teacher,” Dawn recalls, “but I found I was really excited to do it. I found a passion in leading young people to appreciate music and in sharing my love for music with them.”
That passion led her to a long career teaching music in Omaha Public Schools.
“I went back to school and got my teaching degree,” she says. “In my 30 years, I taught at 33 schools across the district, in every part of the city.”
Plus, she adds with a smile, “I could still perform in the evenings at community and semi-professional theatres.”
Dawn had experienced shortness of breath and fatigue in the classroom, and while playing in the yard with her grandkids.
“Then, during a performance one night, I couldn’t catch my breath at all, and I became very red in my face,” Dawn explains. “Even some audience members were wondering if I was alright.”
That event prompted an urgent doctor’s visit, where physicians first diagnosed her with high blood pressure. Shortly after that, tests revealed a more serious underlying condition: Type 2 diabetes.
“I felt like I was pretty active, my diet was OK, my weight was healthy,” she says. “It was a surprise. But I learned that family history and your DNA can be a major factor, and it was for me.”
Dawn began medications and weekly insulin shots. They were effective, but frustrating.
“I was taking nine different meds in the morning and seven at night before I went to bed,” says Dawn. “There were so many, and they were inconvenient, uncomfortable, expensive…I was only 59 years old. I said, ‘I can’t do this for the rest of my life.’”
She started investigating a program called Virta, a clinically proven combination of nutritional ketosis, medical supervision and one-on-one health coaching that can reverse Type 2 diabetes. This program is offered at no cost to qualifying members of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE).
Virta’s innovative and tech-forward platform is connected via Bluetooth to the user’s smart scale, blood glucose monitor and blood pressure monitors. That tech advancement is coupled with a personal relationship that includes 24/7 access to text-based support with coaches who are assigned to the member and coordinate care with the member’s local physicians.
“Virta is more than a diet or an app. It’s a lifestyle,“ Dawn explains. “There’s a lot of mindfulness and self-reflection the member needs to do. But there’s loads of coaching and support, from Virta directly and from your own doctor.”
Dawn acknowledges diet changes are an important part of the program.
“Let’s just say, you aren’t going to be eating like everyone else at your family reunion,” she quips. “But this lifestyle is a choice you need to make every day.”
When asked if Virta has been a success for her health, she notes that the most visible result has been noticeable weight loss.
“But that wasn’t my main goal,” Dawn says. “My main goal was to get off my medications because I was taking too many. And I have. It’s been a success.”
At the time of her diagnosis, Dawn’s blood sugar (A1C) was measured at a dangerous 8.0. Today, she reports a very healthy A1C of 4.8. Meanwhile, many of those annoying and costly medications have been reduced or eliminated — all thanks to Dawn’s lifestyle changes supported by Virta and BCBSNE.
Dawn beams as she talks about feeling stronger and looking healthier.
“Today, I’m able to do so much more: mowing my lawn, working in the garden, singing in the church choir, cleaning my house, being able to go out and play with my grandkids – all without struggling,” Dawn reflects. “Just feeling stronger. Being able to walk a mile without needing to sit and rest. I get compliments about how I look. It has been so affirming. It’s been great.”
Her BCBSNE health insurance coverage has helped her access the care she needs.
“I don’t know if I could have done it without that help from BCBSNE,” Dawn says. “Because it would be thousands and thousands of dollars. They send me everything, free of charge, just to make me healthier.”
Dawn’s story is just one of many. Share yours with us at NebraskaBlue.com/YourStory.