At first, Andy thought he just had a bad case of food poisoning. He passed out and when he woke up in the Long Beach Medical Center emergency department, he found out that he had diabetes. After his third episode of diabetic ketoacidosis , also known by its' abbreviated name of DKA , he discovered he also had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and neuropathy. It was time for him to make some major lifestyle changes.

As far as Andy Lopez knew, he had food poisoning. He felt like he was getting the flu. He couldn't eat food or even drink water without vomiting. Then, he became dizzy and passed out.

Andy woke up in the emergency department at Long Beach Medical Center. When Andy regained consciousness, he discovered that he had a life-long challenge ahead of him. What Andy experienced was diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can lead to a coma, and can be fatal if untreated. He was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Andy received a prescription for expensive insulin and other medications, but he did not have a primary physician and his financial situation was tight. He sometimes skipped doses of insulin to try to make the medication last. In turn, he became more ill, more frequently.

Time passed and Andy experienced another episode of DKA, only this time it wasn't as severe. For Andy, the third time wasn't a charm. He again heard about his high blood pressure, high cholesterol and neuropathy, which is a type of nerve damage that can result from diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body is unable to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a type of sugar that creates energy for a person to perform daily activities. More than 28 million people in the United States have diabetes – that's 8.3 percent of the population. Diet and exercise are especially important for individuals with diabetes, since their bodies are unable to regulate sugars on their own.

With his health on the line, Andy realized he needed to make significant lifestyle changes. While Andy was in the intensive care unit at Long Beach Medical Center for treatment of DKA, he met the Diabetes Program Director, Linda Kerr, NP, CDE, who told him about the new Outpatient Diabetes Clinic. Andy was highly motivated to make changes. He called the program director to set something up as soon as the clinic opened.

Finally, the day came this past August and Andy was first in line. He was the first patient to partake of the new Group Appointment Program. He had the motivation. Now, with the help of the clinic, he would gain the education and resources he needed to turn his motivation into forward, life changing progress.

The Outpatient Diabetes Clinic offers education and self-management training, which facilitates the ongoing process of gaining knowledge, skill and ability necessary to manage diabetes or identify risk factors associated with diabetes to help prevent it. These programs include assessment of individual education needs, explanation of diabetes medication and management, blood glucose monitoring, nutritious meal planning, fitness motivation, acute and long-term complication, education and management and skills that contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

Andy has been attending his group appointment education at the Outpatient Diabetes Clinic and has also been making regular visits to his primary care provider.

"It's been great," Andy says. "It helps me know how to take my medication different ways and helps me understand how to deal with the pain."

Andy takes insulin and medications to manage his blood pressure and cholesterol. With education and support from the Outpatient Diabetes Clinic there is reinforcement that helps him keep on track with his goals and successes of smoking cessation, no alcohol, eating healthier and exercising.

Prior to Andy's diagnosis of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and neuropathy, he wasn't mindful of his diet. However, now he has become disciplined about eating a healthy diet, exercising and he has left his bad habits behind.

The Outpatient Diabetes Clinic at Long Beach Medical Center helps Andy consistently make better choices through support and education about both his condition and the resources available to obtain quality insulin, comfortably within his budget. Andy also has a supportive family that caters to his dietary restrictions and respects his choices to refrain from drinking and smoking.

Today, Andy and his care team are all smiles as they celebrate the decrease in his A1C, a measure of how elevated his uncontrolled blood glucose has been, from more than 8 percent to 6.6 percent: a significant improvement from where he started.