Dale Martinson, Type 2 Diabetes

As a professional bookkeeper and income tax specialist, Dale Martinson knows he needs to pay close attention to numbers.

And as someone diagnosed with type 2 diabetes almost a decade ago, he has learned that about his condition as well.

"The whole trick is paying attention," he said of the daily monitoring of his blood sugar numbers. "I know I can reduce my blood sugar numbers if I pay attention. I've got a few pharmacists as clients and I've heard the horror stories about those who don't."

Martinson, 58, will admit that it wasn't always that way. The first few years after the diagnosis, he followed the daily routine of prescribed medications and kept his numbers at good levels.

"In about 2006 I stopped paying such close attention," he said. "When I finally went to the doctor, my A1c was 9.5." The A1c is a test used to monitor the control of blood sugar levels over time. Ideally, the A1c level should be 7% or lower.

"When my doctor saw my A1c level she said -- I prefer the word 'threatened' -- she would put me on insulin," Martinson said. "It wasn't the insulin that worried me, I was threatened by needles. She gave me until the next test to see if I could lower my A1c. I started exercising and taking the medication when I was suppose to and I dropped my A1c by 2 points within six months."

He still doesn't need insulin injections.

Martinson's diabetes is a classic case. He was first aware that something was wrong when he started having to get up at night to use the bathroom and he was frequently thirsty.

"When I finally went to my doctor and had blood work, she asked me, 'Do you know that your blood sugar is high?' I told her, no. But I knew I had issues."

His diabetes is managed by his physician and by the Diabetes Center at Borgess Medical Center, the hospital where he was born 58 years ago.

"I absolutely couldn't get better care than at Borgess," he said of the Diabetes Center.

It was through the Diabetes Center that Martinson was enrolled about 18 months ago in a clinical trial of a new diabetes medication available through the Borgess Research Institute.

Martinson said he appreciates the quick responses he gets from the Diabetes Center when he has questions.

He cites as one example the day when he took a blood sugar reading and was stunned to see the result: 765. Typically, his readings are about 100.

"I called Cheryl (Tenenbaum, Diabetes Center clinical manager) and she asked if I was feeling OK. I was. But she had me go immediately to get a blood sugar test," he said. "The test showed normal readings. I subsequently found out that the test strips have to be kept in the dark. I had been to Las Vegas and had taken the strips out of the package and put them in a plastic bag. That ruined them."

Martinson's condition has been part of his motivation to work with Touchdown for Diabetes, an annual fund-raiser organized by Cole Community Solutions, a non-profit organization established by Cole Automotive Group.

Touchdown for Diabetes, which has no salaries, operating costs or fees, typically generates more than $100,000 in contributions each year to support people who don't have health insurance and who get care through the Borgess Diabetes Center.

Martinson said among the major benefits of his care at the Borgess Diabetes Center are the shared medical appointments, where people with diabetes gather for a group session led by Tenenbaum and Dr. Michael Valitutto, the Center's medical director. Patients talk about what works for them and what doesn't and the group setting allows the medical professionals to continue diabetes education.

"Education is very important in diabetes control," Valitutto said. "When patients are better educated about their medications and treatment, it can minimize symptoms, complications, admission rates to the hospital and morbidity."

He said that the Diabetes Center has partnered with the Borgess Research Institute to search for more effective diabetes medications and other treatments. "Research has helped Dale along very well," Valitutto said.

Some patients hesitate to come to the shared medical appointments, he said, because they aren't sure what to expect. But of those who do -- and Martinson is one -- 95% say they would come back in a heart beat and recommend shared appointment to family and friends, he said.

"It's a support group, it helps people learn and it enhances improvement," Valitutto said.

It is estimated that almost 26 millions Americans have diabetes, 7 million of them undiagnosed. Valitutto said the number is expected to grow significantly over the next few decades, another reason to pursue better prevention and treatment options.