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Brian Prehna

Type 1 Diabetes Success Story

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Brian was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at 33 years old. He lived a healthy lifestyle and participated in CrossFit competitions, but quickly learned T1D is not preventable. The cause of the autoimmune attack on the body’s insulin producing cells is a question scientists continue to investigate.

After nearly five years with A1c test results above 9%, Brian watched the PBS documentary "Blood Sugar Rising: America’s Hidden Diabetes Epidemic.”

“It scared me straight,” he said. It showed people just like me, who had all types of complications from diabetes. They had made excuses and were filled with regret. It finally clicked that I needed to take control of my diabetes before it’s too late.”

Brian’s most recent A1c was 6.5% and his care team at the UMass Memorial Diabetes Center of Excellence (DCOE) is extremely proud of his efforts and success. “He’s really had a transformative year and his blood sugars are outstanding,” said nurse practitioner Nancy Sidhom. “He implemented lifestyle changes and got results!”

Brian first met with Dr. Asem Ali at Health-Alliance Leominster Hospital, where Dr. Ali sees patients once a week as part of the UMass DCOE Community Diabetes Partnership Program. “I can’t say enough good things about him,” raved Brian. “We communicate by phone, text, or whatever.  He listens to my anxieties and has a great way of calming me down and getting me back on track.”

Brian said he felt the way many people in the documentary did.  “I figured I’m on an insulin pump, so I can eat and do whatever I want. But the numbers don’t lie.”

Brian wears an OmniPod pump and Dexcom G6 continuous glucose monitor (CGM), and recently began using a FitBit and started paying attention to the foods he eats. He lost 15 pounds.

“It’s all diet,” Brian exclaimed. They even lowered my nighttime insulin and took me off my daily pill medications!”

Before the COVID pandemic began, Brian was stressed at work, ate poorly, and his blood sugars were out of control. His A1c was 8.7%. He began meeting with UMass DCOE health psychologist Dr. Stella Lopez.  

“She’s incredible! Our meetings, both in person and using telehealth video conferencing, helped me figure out so much about my life and plan action steps.” 

Dr. Lopez helped Brian redirect his anxieties to be productive, instead of focusing on what he doesn’t have control over. “She also validates what I’m doing well.”

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Brian recently moved to Cape Cod, but plans to continue receiving his diabetes care at the UMass DCOE.  He’ll combine annual in-person exams with regular telehealth appointments. “The support system they’ve provided me is the exclamation point in my head for the teamwork that the Diabetes Center of Excellence offers.”

He’s learned one of the most important lessons of living with diabetes, which is “the only person who can truly take care of myself is me.”

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