When Ramona Coppelli became a diabetes educator in Payson three years ago, people told her there wasn’t much of a need.
That changed, the population grew and residents learned about the service Coppelli offered.
Coppelli said she has seen at least 10 people a week for diabetes education in the past three years.
Coppelli is not diabetic herself, but, “I have a long family history of diabetes. And this is what nurse practitioners do. We work with people in preventative health care and education.”
She said there is a severe need to educate people about diabetes. Working in two practices, Samaritan Family Health and Payson Family Care, she is doing her part to meet that need.
“It is important that when people are first diagnosed with diabetes they learn the process of the disease and why they need to take control,” Coppelli said.
She said at the Samaritan Family Health office, there is a big push to get the clients with diabetes educated.
To begin, she spends about 30 minutes with each of her patients discussing where they need the most education about their illness. In the past, she also has presented group sessions to between 15 to 20 patients at a time.
“There are two important components, medical management and self-care,” Coppelli said.
The medical management of the disease involves teaching patients about their medication and the risk of blindness, kidney disease, heart disease and amputation associated with diabetes.
Self-care revolves around diet and exercise.
“A huge number of cases can be controlled with diet and exercise alone,” Coppelli said.
It is a matter of changing their diet and increasing their level of activity. Admittedly, the hardest step for most diabetics to make is to change their eating habits.
“My big focus is talking about their diets. I feel passionate about it. And it is so rewarding when people come back to me and say what I told them helped them change their lives and they feel better than they ever have,” she said.
She does not give everyone the same meal plan though, she recommends healthy eating.
“Each body is different,” Coppelli said.
She has them write down what they are eating, then she sits down with them and they talk about the livable changes they can make in their diet.
“I don’t want them to feel like they are starving,” she said.
Generally speaking, she wants her patients’ total calories to be made up of:
- Less than 20 percent fat;
- At least 30 percent protein; and
- Less than 50 percent carbohydrates.
It is balance, she said, and the most important part of the balance is focusing on the fat and carbohydrates. She said she does not include vegetables in the restrictions, except the starchy ones, such as potatoes and corn.
“When people are first diagnosed with diabetes, their reaction is usually, ‘Oh no! How awful. I have diabetes.’ I think it’s empowering, they can change their lives,” Coppelli said.
She said when there is a family history of diabetes, the members of the family without diabetes should still act as if they already have it and live their lives accordingly, eating less and getting more exercise. That lifestyle is a good means of prevention, it will also help prevent high blood pressure and high cholesterol, she said.
In addition to working with the diabetic patients at Samaritan Family Health and Payson Family Health Care, Coppelli is one of the diabetes educators who facilitates Payson’s Diabetic Support Group. The group meets the second Wednesday of each month at the Senior Circle building, 215 N. Beeline Highway. At 5 p.m. a light supper is served, with a program at 5:45 p.m.
There is no fee to participate, but a $2 donation is requested for the meal.
For more information call 468-1012 or 468-2292.
Name: Ramona Coppelli
Occupation: Family Nurse Practitioner
Employer: Samaritan Family Health and Payson Family Care
Family: Husband, Dr. Luis Coppelli and daughter, Catalina, and three stepchildren
Personal motto: You can do anything you set your mind to.
Inspiration: Jesus Christ
Greatest feat: My education
My favorite hobby or leisure activity is exercise, reading and spending time with my family.
The three words that describe me best are: Determined, compassionate and a passionate mother.
I don’t want to brag but I have the most amazing and supportive husband.
The person in history I’d most like to meet is Mother Teresa.
Luxury defined: Sailing on a broad reach in mid-afternoon, no noise except the lapping of waves and whistle of the wind.
Dream vacation spot: Italy
Why Payson? It is a beautiful small town with four gentle seasons and filled with kind people.