I’ve been a paramedic for 23 years and certain calls stick in my mind. They are not always the worst calls or the most life threatening. Sometimes it is a conversation or an unusual situation that I will recall. I remember this particular call because it was a turning point in my career and when I started seeing less medical emergencies from the long term effects of smoking and more from a new epidemic: obesity and the host of resulting medical problems associated with it. As smoking in our community decreased it seemed that obesity went up; we are seeing more and more severely overweight adults. But even more concerning, we are seeing more obesity in young people.
This 911 call was for a 40 year old woman who was having problems with her blood pressure – it was far too high. We determined that the woman needed emergency medical care so we began treating here and proceeded to transport her to a local hospital.
The woman’s twelve year old daughter rode with me as I drove our medic unit to the hospital; my partner stayed with the young girl’s mother in the back. The young girl and I talked as we drove. She told me that her mom had hypertension and adult onset diabetes from not eating right and gaining too much weight. Then she told me that she herself was a borderline Type II Diabetic. She said she had been told that she needed to change her diet, eat healthier, and lose weight to reverse the course of her early onset diabetes. But she also said it was hard for her to find healthy foods.
I saw this as an opportunity to educate this young woman and, hopefully, prevent a future medical emergency like the one I was seeing her mother for now. A few years prior I really started looking at nutrition labels on the prepackaged foods I ate. What I found is that most of our prepackaged foods are full of three things: sugar, salt, and saturated fat. Even the foods I thought were healthy were made to taste better by adding lots of these three things. If I continued to eat these unhealthy foods I, too, might one day find myself in the back of one of our medic units.
So, I started to cook from scratch. I didn’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen – I just wanted to eat healthier and have more control over what went into my food. What I found was that it didn’t take that much more time to cook a quick healthy meal from scratch than it took to open up one of those frozen stir fry packs or put something in the microwave. Plus, instead of salt and sugar, I could add herbs and spices to create my own rich flavors. By doing my own cooking I was able to control what went into my food and how healthy it was.
I was able to tell this girl that based on my personal experience, my own health improved once I started to eat healthier – using fresh ingredients, herbs, and spices. I promised her that once she started eating healthy she would start to notice how much better she felt. If she combined that with portion control and moderate exercise she could lose weight, feel better, and reduce her chances of developing Type II Diabetes.
We arrived at the hospital and took her mom into the emergency department. I left with the hope that our one conversation might change that young girl’s life.
For more information on Type II Diabetes and how to prevent it visit: http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/index.html and http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/index.html
31 Quick-and-Easy Fat-Burning Recipes: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20678467,00.html
For information on using SNAP EBT card to buy fresh and healthy food visit: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/budget
Lisa Parsons has been a Paramedic with KCM1 since 1992