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Advocacy Spotlight: Bertha Garbrandt

Bertha GarbrandtFor people with diabetes, "Knowing is half the battle."  Knowing you have diabetes, and knowing how to manage the disease. However, nearly 6 million Americans have diabetes and don’t know it…and that lack of knowledge can result in serious complications.

Bertha Garbrandt, an Ohio resident, spent more than a decade not knowing the cause of her health problems. She turned to an area clinic for help but because she was uninsured, Bertha was unable to afford costly diagnostic services. She struggled for more than ten years until she was finally diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the age of 42. 

“When you have no insurance, you fall through the cracks. Things that could be paid for aren’t there for you.” said Bertha. “The day I was diagnosed, I was relieved.”  Now employed and insured, Bertha embraced her long-awaited diagnosis and began to chart a course for successful management of her diabetes. 

Feeling better and more in control of her diabetes, Bertha realized that she was not the only person struggling to obtain a diagnosis or access quality care.  According to Bertha “education is key”, so after learning to manage her own diabetes she started to educate others about her experience. In an effort to communicate what it meant to live with diabetes every day, she participated in “Day with Diabetes” an event sponsored by the American Diabetes Association.  The event allows an individual without diabetes to see the world through the eyes of someone who does have diabetes.  In August 2007, Bertha joined her Representative, Congressman Zach Space (D-OH), to participate in this educational opportunity. Congressman Space mirrored all of Bertha’s diabetes care throughout the day, doing finger sticks, adjusting meals, taking “medication” and having to be aware of his health at all times.  Congressman Space shared that the experience gave him “...a renewed appreciation for the disease.”

Like others with diabetes, Bertha had a difficult choice to make should she focus on her own health solely, which is a full-time commitment or should she share her courage and her resilience with others who need to know they are not alone in this fight? Bertha made a brave decision to be an advocate for herself and to empower others with the knowledge to fight their own battle too.

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