PATIENT STORIES | JOHN

AUG 2018

World-class diabetes center helps change one man’s life

John Costello didn’t know his Type 2 diabetes was increasing the likelihood he’d develop heart disease. But in 2017 he found out, when the sharp pains in his chest led to open heart surgery and a triple bypass.

John says he was overweight at 267 pounds, which contributed to both of his life-threatening conditions.

The extra pounds put him at greater risk for high blood sugar, a characteristic of diabetes that can damage the blood vessels and nerves controlling the heart.

Like many people with diabetes, he also had high cholesterol and high blood pressure, two other factors also linked to heart disease.

Following surgery, John knew he had to change his lifestyle if he wanted to improve his health.

He says the coordination that took place between University Health System’s heart and diabetes rehabilitation programs helped him do that.

Medical staff with the heart program introduced him to exercises and activities that helped him regain muscle strength and stamina in the weeks following his surgery.

They put him in touch with a nutritionist and experts at the Texas Diabetes Institute, a partnership between University Health System and UT Health San Antonio. There John learned how to buy and prepare more nutritious food.

“They talked a lot about how to create a balanced diet, what to avoid and how to be knowledgeable when you read a label in the grocery store,” he said.

Staff at The Texas Diabetes Institute—one of the nation’s most comprehensive diabetes center—created an individualized exercise program. They gave John access to a fitness center supervised by medical staff.

As important as the exercise and healthy eating was, the emotional support John found through the rehab classes. He suddenly had a network of new friends who understood exactly what he was going through.

“It’s difficult dealing with conditions like this,” he said. “You develop a family there. It really is very motivating. We share our war stories and that keeps everything going.”

A year and a half after medical staff wheeled John into surgery, he’s seeing positive results.

He’s 67 pounds lighter and no longer needs medicine to control his diabetes.

And as he writes the next chapter of recovery he’s not on his own.

Every now and then he gets a call from a rehab staffer who worked with him many months ago.

“They didn’t just check off a box. They continue to follow up,” he said.

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