LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jun 26, 2020) – Jill Blake’s diabetes journey began when she was 11 years old.
“It was 1982," she said. "I was in the 7th grade, and I began experiencing all of the classic signs and symptoms of Type 1 diabetes.”
Back then, she says the disease was not prominent in her small hometown tucked away in the hills of southeastern Kentucky. She remembers very few people in Middlesboro having knowledge of it, and she had no one in her family with diabetes. It was a time of a lot of ‘unknowns’ for Blake and her family.
“The diagnosis was very unexpected,” she said.
Fast forward 38 years to the spring of 2020, and Blake began experiencing some of those feelings all over again. “When the pandemic started, I felt very uneasy about the virus and all of the ‘unknowns’ especially for those with chronic illnesses like myself,” she said.
Blake has successfully managed her diabetes since her diagnosis at a young age. Part of that success she attributes to receiving ample education about the disease. That continued when she and her husband moved to Lexington in 1993.
“I immediately sought out an endocrinologist at UK HealthCare who could continue to assist in my diabetes management,” she said.
She not only sought care at UK HealthCare but also became an employee, marking the start of her career in nursing which continues today as the Manager of Nursing Excellence/Magnet Program Director. She remembers when UK HealthCare’s Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center opened.
“I was very excited not only for myself but also for the Commonwealth of Kentucky," she said. "We now have one place where people with diabetes can get all of their diabetes management needs met at once. People with newly diagnosed diabetes – or those who have had it for almost 40 years, like me – can work with physicians, nurses, dietitians and others.”
In the midst of the ongoing global pandemic, the staff at UK HealthCare’s Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center have made sure the top-notch care and education is still provided through the use of TeleCare.
“Health does not take a time out during times of stress, even a pandemic," said certified diabetes care and education specialist Sheri Setser-Legg. "Our patients need to feel like they are still in charge of their health, particularly during a time that our world feels somewhat out of control.”
Blake is extremely thankful for that technology as she was upgraded to a new insulin pump just as COVID-19 was changing our world as we knew it. “I knew I needed TeleCare to get the assistance and support of my diabetes team,” she said.
Blake was able to meet virtually with Setser-Legg to set up the new pump and learn how to manage the new settings. They’ve also met additional times to discuss the transition to the new pump.
“By being able to see each other on-screen, we can interact just like we would in person, and she can point to items on her pump demo,” Blake said.
Setser-Legg says she certainly had some hesitations at first with TeleCare.
“Being technologically challenged myself at times, I was concerned that it would be taxing for patients to maneuver," she said. "However, I have found that with little instruction patients are able to use the system with minimal difficulty.”
She says Blake’s situation is a perfect example of how effective the technology can be. “Even though insulin pumps and sensors are very involved, we were able to accomplish these sessions pretty seamlessly," she said. "Jill actually uploaded her pump and sensor data to the web-based program. I accessed the data and we were able to go through this information step by step.”
Like many others, Blake has been working remotely since her position at UK HealthCare is non-clinical. She says that has been a blessing but that it can also be isolating – something TeleCare also helps with.
“The use of TeleCare appointments gives me and I’m sure others an opportunity to still interact with our health care teams so we don’t feel alone in our care,” she said.
Dr. Derick Adams, a board-certified endocrinologist who has been seeing Blake for several years, says that TeleCare has been vital for all of his patients in recent months.
“The most important component of diabetes management is patient education, especially with new technologies like continuous glucose monitoring and insulin pumps," he said. "It is a testament to the education team and staff at the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center that they found a way to deliver high-quality diabetes education via TeleCare.”
In addition to providing interactions while keeping their patients safe, TeleCare is having positive impacts in many other ways.
“Many of our patients live far away," said Setser-Legg. "This is such a convenient way to receive education without the hardship of traveling a great distance. Patients have to take less time away from work and home which is a huge benefit to them and their families.”
Adams says it is actually allowing him to see patients more frequently than he normally would.
“Patients no longer have to travel great distances or take a whole day off work for a visit,” Adams said. “But most importantly, TeleCare has helped provide care while minimizing the spread of COVID-19 in Kentucky.”
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.