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Gary's story

These were things I didn't know I was walking
around with.

In 2008, Gary had no idea his life was in danger. He considered himself healthy — and in many ways, he was. He ate well and exercised often. In fact, he was just walking off the basketball court when he began to feel unsteady. But this was not the typical adrenaline rush after a competitive game of technical dribbling and 3-point shooting. This was something much more serious.

Gary awoke in a hospital bed. The doctors there updated him on his prognosis: congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, a blood sugar count of 800 and a diagnosis of diabetes. "These were things I didn't know I was walking around with," Gary said. "I had heard about diabetes but I had no idea what it was really all about."

To educate Gary about his conditions and help him effectively manage his diabetes post-discharge, we put him in touch with Summit Health Institute for Research and Education Inc. (SHIRE), where Gary joined other AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia members and associates for the SHIRE Wellness Circles. These health education programs are designed to help those with conditions such as diabetes and hypertension improve their eating habits and increase physical activity.

"I learned how to fine-tune my eating habits and substitute certain things," Gary said. "Now I cut out salt, cut out sugar, and eat more whole wheat."

During 1 of the sessions, Gary found himself talking 1-on-1 with a speaker from the Wellness Circle sessions. Unknown to Gary, he was speaking with Ruth Perot, executive director and CEO of SHIRE. He shared his story and how he was interested in helping others, the way his care team at SHIRE and AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia helped him manage his condition and motivated him to educate himself about his health conditions. The conversation sparked a new beginning for Gary, and he began his journey as a peer educator at SHIRE. Now, he is helping others through wellness consulting.

 "The Wellness Circles made me more of an advocate for wellness. As I became more educated, I started relaying that information to others. Then, they talk to other people, and the benefits go on and on."

When Gary is not advocating for health and wellness, you can find him back on the basketball court, where he continues to stay active, because he knows this is an important step in managing his diabetes. His game may have slightly improved, but because of the partnership with SHIRE and AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia, his health has improved dramatically.