Wear the Gown: Fighting diabetes with knowledge

“Putting on the Gown” is THV11’s euphemism for taking better control of your health.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – “Putting on the Gown” is THV11’s euphemism for taking better control of your health.

There is a growing community of Arkansans doing just that because the problem they face puts them in a class all by themselves.

"They play all these roles in your body. They've got all these different things that they do,” said teacher Jordan Howard.

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Howard is quite a bit younger than his students, and yet these older people listen as if their lives depended on it. Why? Because they suffer from diabetes.

“I am a type two diabetic. I've been diabetic for 27 years. it was pre-diabetic before,” said Allison Davis.

This is Davis' third class. She and her fellow classmates fight fear with knowledge.

“I'm not the type person that buries my head in the sand,” said Davis.

The school is more of a personal experience for diabetic outpatients.

“It seems to make our patients a little bit more comfortable,” said another teacher, Sandra Hansel.

The people she coaches have just found out they have diabetes. Many of them had no idea.

“I think some of it is fear. They don't want to know what they don't want to know,” said Hansel.

But they have to know because elevated glucose and insulin levels produced by diabetes break down blood vessels.

“You have blood vessels from the top of your head to the tippy tip of your toes,” said Hansel.

Which is why diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure and the even worse news.

“Diabetes right now is at an epidemic proportion.”

“Coach” Hansel gets the patients first, where they learn the basics, then Coach Howard reinforces with follow up classes.

“It's all about lifestyle changes.”

One example is Allison's two bite limit on desserts.

“The one bite or the two bites is the best flavor and I eat and I'm good which has helped my blood sugar.”

Whatever works for the 60 percent of diabetics who learn their lessons and make changes, it makes a life-saving difference.

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“Make me live as long as I possibly can with the best life I can live with diabetes.”

All the patients you've seen in the class began their journey to better health the same way: an appointment with a primary care physician. If you have diabetes in your family history, you are a prime candidate.