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Nurse with diabetes teaches other patients

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Posted: Saturday, December 7, 2013 12:00 am

When she was 30, Donna Schulz was pregnant with her son. Although she watched what she ate and made sure to get plenty of exercise, the registered nurse developed gestational diabetes.

She was immediately put on an insulin regime for the last six weeks of her pregnancy, but seemed to recover after his birth.

When her son was 2, Schulz started feeling unwell on a regular basis. She began feeling abnormally thirsty and was losing weight.

“As a nurse, you kind of know what’s going on, but then there’s that denial,” she said recalling the day her blood sugar spiked and her Lodi Memorial Hospital co-workers took her to the emergency room when she passed out.

Today, Schulz has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and has been using insulin for 25 years.

But it doesn’t control her life.

In fact, it helps her thrive. She enjoys vacationing, hiking, cooking and spending time with her family, which includes her husband of 35 years, two sons and their wives, three grandchildren and a fourth on the way.

“Life is not roses all the time, but diabetes should not stop you from living or doing things,” Schulz said.

Part of her diabetes management program includes wearing a pump for the last 12 years, which delivers insulin to her body on an as-needed basis. She wears a continuous blood sugar monitor — instead of pricking her finger five or six times a day to get a reading — to help keep her levels in check, and sometimes must make adjustments to her diet.

She also has to plan ahead for what she’s going to eat, so that her blood sugar does not spike.

While she said she doesn’t live differently than her peers, she does exercise regularly and infuses more vegetables into her diet than most.

Schulz is also a cancer survivor, which involved undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and ultimately a stem cell transplant two years ago next week — all while maintaining her diabetes regime.

Schulz’s career as a nurse and health educator has spanned 32 years, but she started at Lodi Memorial Hospital as an obstetrics nurse in 1974. She is now a certified diabetic educator, which means she has taken extra courses and passed a special test, she said.

Schulz teaches a four-week course, 11 months out of the year, at Lodi Health to help participants identify diabetes, then work to control the disease through nutrition, blood glucose testing, exercise, personal care, complications, insulin and oral medications. Participants include those with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and newly diagnosed patients, and anyone who needs a refresher is encouraged to attend.

Since 1974, Schulz estimates that about 2,900 students have taken the class, although interest has waned in recent years as she believes more people seek diabetes information online.

For more information about classes, call Schulz at 209-334-3411.

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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