Health

Tuesday, Apr 15 2014 04:00 PM

THE PULSE: Local racer drives home diabetes message

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    By Ryan Reed Racing

    Bakersfield's Ryan Reed has type I diabetes.

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    Courtenay Edelhart covers health care for The Californian. Reach her at cedelhart@bakersfield.com, at Facebook.com/TBCHealth or on Twitter@TBCHealth.

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By COURTENAY EDELHART, Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

A race car driver from Bakersfield has teamed up with the American Diabetes Association and Lilly Diabetes as spokesman for their Drive to Stop Diabetes awareness campaign.

Ryan Reed, 20, of Charlotte, is a NASCAR driver with the Roush Fenway team. That's Fenway as in Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Same people.

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ABOUT YOUR REPORTER

Courtenay Edelhart covers health care for The Californian. She writes in this spot every Wednesday. Contact her at cedelhart@bakersfield.com, at Facebook.com/TBCHealth or on Twitter @TBCHealth.

But Reed almost had to give up his dream of a racing career.

He was diagnosed with Type I diabetes during his senior year at Liberty High School as he was preparing to move to North Carolina.

"My doctor at the time told me I'd never race again because there was no way to do it safely," he said. "There were so many different variables that could go wrong."

For a while, Reed was disheartened, but then he found a new doctor who helped him create a race-friendly safety net.

There's a bullseye on his uniform that directs members of his pit crew to the proper place for an insulin injection if he ever needs one.

He also keeps a special endurance drink in the car that is high in carbs, protein and sugar for when his blood sugar is low.

And then there's the continuous glucose monitor on the dashboard.

There are several such monitors on the market. Reed uses the G4 Platinum made by Dexcom.

The device uses wireless technology to enable users to view their glucose levels whenever they need to. The system allows diabetics to program personalized information such as glucose targets and alerts, and it has an alarm that sounds if glucose rises or falls to dangerous levels.

A tiny sensor is inserted in Reed's abdomen just below the skin that measures glucose levels every 10 seconds. The data is transmitted to a small monitor that can be attached to a belt or the waistline of pants -- or in Ryan's case, a race car.

That's saved Reed's career.

"Seeing a young man take on a demanding sport such as auto racing while having to meticulously and continuously manage his blood glucose is an inspiration to the nearly 26 million Americans living with diabetes," said Terrance Gregg, CEO of Dexcom. "Daily management is an ongoing challenge, and Ryan's success shows that people can overcome that challenge and pursue their dreams in spite of diabetes."

That's the point of the awareness campaign, Reed said.

"There have been so many advances in the last 10, even five years," he said. "People with diabetes can do so much more today than we could before, so don't ever give up."

GOLF AS STROKE THERAPY

San Joaquin Community Hospital's third annual Saving Strokes program will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 1 at Stockdale Country Club, 7001 Stockdale Highway.

Co-sponsored by the American Stroke Association, the goal of the program is to introduce -- or reintroduce -- stroke survivors to the game of golf for both pleasure and physical rehabilitation.

There is no charge to participate, and lunch is included. RSVP at 916- 446-6505 or email carrie.vinces@heart.org. Sign-ups also are available online at www.savingstrokes.com.

WAKE UP!

Take comfort, sleep-deprived parents of newborns. You suffer with purpose.

In a new article published in the journal Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, Harvard University biology professor David Haig writes that infants who wake frequently at night to breastfeed are delaying the resumption of the mother's ovulation and therefore preventing the birth of a sibling with whom they would have to compete.

Studies have found higher infant mortality rates among siblings born close together. Haig argues that the benefits of delaying the birth of a rival were strong enough to force an evolutionary response.

Intriguing stuff, especially because I'm the first born of fraternal twins.

I won the food battle. In high school, I was the chubby, bespectacled nerd and my homecoming queen twin was the skinny cheerleader.

Yippee.

HEALTH CARE ENROLLMENT

Although Tuesday was the grace period deadline to obtain health coverage through the state's heath insurance exchange, you can apply for Medi-Cal year-round, and you can still buy private insurance if you have a qualifying event such as losing a job or getting married.

California's first open enrollment period ended March 31, but the state gave consumers until Tuesday to buy coverage if they were unable to complete an application on deadline day due to technical difficulties with the phone lines and web portal, which were overwhelmed by heavy traffic.

The state is anticipating 3 percent of current enrollees will leave Covered California plans during the special enrollment period that ends when open enrollment resumes in the fall, generally because they have discovered they are eligible for Medi-Cal or because they have moved or found work with better health benefits.

But Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said he expects just as many new enrollees during special enrollment.

"So a lot of those will net out as a wash," he said.

Still, Lee said going forward, he expects it will get harder to recruit new, subsidy-eligible consumers.

"More and more of our future enrollment will be the chronically uninsured and people who've never been insured," he said. "It's going to be a bigger lift to move them from a culture of coping to a culture of health coverage."

People who don't have health insurance face a tax penalty of $95 or 1 percent of adjusted gross income, whichever is greater.

More than 3 million California consumers had enrolled in Covered California health insurance plans or Medi-Cal as of March 31.

Of those, 1.2 million people signed up for private health insurance and 1.9 million enrolled in Medi-Cal.

PERCEPTIONS OF OBAMACARE

Democrats had hoped that resentment of the Affordable Care Act would ebb as consumers saw its benefits, but a new Gallup poll has found attitudes toward the new health care law remain generally negative.

Of 1,009 randomly surveyed adults nationwide last week, 43 percent approve of the new law and 54 percent disapprove, according to Gallup.

Americans' overall approval of the law and expectations for its long-term effects on the healthcare system continued to break down along political party lines.

A vast majority of Democrats asked, 79 percent, approved of the law, and 69 percent thought it will make the healthcare situation better. In contrast, 87 percent of Republicans disapproved of the law, and 77 percent thought it will make the nation's healthcare worse.

Independents in the survey were more negative than positive toward the law. Sixty-five percent of them disapproved of the law, and 53 percent believed the law will make the healthcare situation worse, compared with 26 percent who said better.

HEALTH FAIR IN TAFT

The 14th annual Taft Health Fair will be 8 a.m. to noon April 26 at Buena Vista High School, 900 North 10th St. in Taft.

There will be free medical and dental screenings, $50 comprehensive blood tests and $30 prostate cancer screenings.

Patients should fast for 12 hours prior to blood tests.

For information, call 765-4124.

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