I’ve been living in the States for over six years, a country highly regarded for some of the best health care available. Unfortunately though, I’ve had a hard time finding an endocrinologist that 1) understands my athletic lifestyle and 2) genuinely cares about me!
I saw a doctor at NYU who treated me like a number, I waited 4 months to see the best Mount Sinai doctor only to arrive to see her and find out she was moving practice and as for her replacement, well she was the worst! “Why are you here today?” Because, I was told to come and see you from Dr. Breen (the one who left)”. Her reply “I can’t help you. Your numbers are all over the place”. Isn’t that the same as being locked out of your apartment and the locksmith saying “I can’t help you”.
Demoralized with this rocky road, I continued to manage my insulin dependent diabetes independently. I occasionally went to my family practice in Union Square where I would get the general stuff checked out by resident doctors and nurses or go to my doctor back in England. Best health care? Where?
In March, just after my birthday, I decided to begin my inaugural annual check up. How could I possibly forget to do this picking my birthday? A genius move, I agree. Low heart rate, low cholesterol, good BMI are always great things I like to hear but a high A1C is not. Mine was 7.7, my highest in years. Urged again to find an endocrinologist, I went back to the drawing board. My top two choices did not take my insurance. My third choice had a 4 month wait time. This was not going well. I returned to Union Square three months later. Although I had failed to find an endocrinologist, they would surely be impressed with what a felt was an A1C improvement. Not so fast Mr. Independent; 7.5. Only a 0.2 improvement. OK, so it wasn’t 14.5 or something through the roof but it really felt like it.
When you are in a hole, sometimes it takes miracles or others to get you out. I had both. My nurse, Mara Tittler went above and beyond for me and researched who I could see, who could help a semi-well controlled type 1 diabetic about to embark on 100 miles of endurance in need of support, help and an occasional kick from behind.
She called me to tell me about The Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center affiliated with Columbia University. She explained that everything and everybody I would need to see would be under one roof from the endocrinologist, nurses, dietician, ophthalmologist, researchers. I was told the chief doctor was a mini-celebrity appearing regularly on the news channels, Oprah etc. Mara referred to her as the rock star! Did i fail to mention she was also already treating other serious athletes and they held group meetings to discuss exercise and diabetes. This was exactly the type of doctor I had been dreaming about. Was I dreaming?
No. A very friendly sounding Lydia called me straight after i thanked Mara. “Can you come in next week to see Dr. Goland?” Dr. Goland ‘the’ rock star? That will work! I don’t think I had ever been so excited to see a doctor in all my life!
July 5th; I turned up 30 minutes early at the Columbia University building on 168th Street. This was about to become my new diabetes HQ. I exited the elevator to see the Naomi Berrie sign with the slogan “The care until the cure”. This place had the feel of no ordinary doctors office. I was greeted to warm smiles and took a seat in the colorful waiting area. It felt like they wanted you to bring your entire entourage here. It seemed to also have a focus on children which made me happy. I sat next to a Mom and a girl who was probably 7 or 8 years old. We smiled at each other knowing we shared a special bond.
Dr. Goland greeted me as the ultra marathoner. We got down to business. She was frustrated with my story that I had struggled to find an endocrinologist but quick to enforce her and the team would whip me into shape in time for my 100 miles and even more importantly, for years to come. I spoke of my wish to get my A1C down to 6.0. She was happy with where it currently was based on my lifestyle (at 7.5) although we agreed to work on getting it under 7 again asap. We ran through the standard protocol of questions. “Do you smoke. No” She answered her own question! She already knew me because she treats others who are just like me. She seemed to respect my crazy running endeavors almost as much as I was respecting her. I knew this was going to be the start of a great patient-doctor relationship. This was my new dream team!
I briefly met my nurse, Emily Coppedge. She was as sports mad as me talking about all of the Olympic Trials news from Oregon and a former UNC student. Being an honorary one myself (through the other half!) we already had lots in common. My homework was a week of detailed diet, insulin and exercise notes before I was due to come back in. I scheduled my follow-up and got asked how my training was going by some of the other office staff. Word travels fast but more importantly, I felt everyone their was supporting me and my choice of lifestyle. I didn’t want to leave!
Don’t be a frustrated diabetic if you live in NYC, especially if you have an active lifestyle like me. I know their must be another ten or hundred people in my shoes who have not found the right management team for them. Speak to The Naomi Berrie Diabetic Centre and schedule an appointment.