As a nurse and director of Inpatient Services at Southern Ohio Medical Center, Valerie DeCamp always puts the patients first, taking care of their needs and stressing to them the importance of good health, proper health management and regular health screenings.
But last year DeCamp learned that sometimes it’s best to take your own advice before it’s too late.
“As a nurse, you tend to take better care of others than you do yourself,” she said. “I never took the time to stop and think that there could be something wrong with me, even when others noticed that there was.”
At age 48, DeCamp always assumed she was too young to develop a chronic illness. Though her family had a strong history of diabetes, stroke and other heart disease, they had always been older when they were diagnosed.
“I knew I hadn’t been feeling as normal as usual, but I was in denial. I have a high-stress job and figured it came with the territory,” she said. “Besides, I treat tons of patients all the time and I thought I would definitely know if something was wrong with me.”
But DeCamp was completely unaware of her declining health. In fact, it was almost a fluke that she realized she was sick at all.
“Last year I volunteered to help out at the SOMC Dance with Heart event, escorting people around the different screenings that were scheduled,” she said. “Toward the end of the evening I decided to go through a screening myself, just to see what I would find out.”
After completing a diabetes screening, DeCamp learned that her fasting glucose was 280 – more than 200 points above normal. She immediately knew that she was not okay and called the doctor to find out more.
“Once I met with my doctor, he started me on diabetes medication and within two days I began to feel better,” she said. “I really didn’t know how bad I had felt until I started feeling better.”
After a year of proper medication, exercise and healthier diet and life choices, DeCamp’s A1C is below six and her triglycerides are 34 – nearly ten times lower than they used to be. Best of all, she’s happier and healthier than she’s felt in years and takes every opportunity to encourage other nurses to take the advice they give to patients time and time again.
“Get tested, go to a screening, know your numbers. Don’t ignore your health,” she said. “I didn’t do the things we’re always telling our patients to do and it could have cost me my life. It’s a blessing to be healthy, so don’t take advantage of it. Sometimes you just have to put yourself first.”
Free health screenings will be open to the public during this year’s SOMC Sing with Heart event from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday Feb. 28 at the SOMC Friends Community Center, 1202 18th St., Portsmouth. Screenings for cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference and heart risk analysis will be available and attendees will have the opportunity to enjoy karaoke and music from local groups all evening long. Pre-registration is preferred, however walk-ins are welcome. To register or for more information, please call 740-356-7665.