MTBH nurse inspires diabetic patients by example, support

Jun 4, 2019

When 53-year-old fitness instructor Mary Helen Janavaras learned that she was diabetic, she was shocked. But when doctors told her that her 20-year-old daughter Natalie, was pre-diabetic, Mary Helen became desperate. “I needed to find out what we were doing wrong and how to make it right so my daughter and I wouldn’t go down the wrong path,” Janavaras said. “My mother is diabetic and suffers from neuropathy and had a stroke. We want a healthier future for ourselves,” she said.

Mary Helen Janavaras with daughter and dieticiansJanavaras said she is grateful her doctor referred her to Brenda Stewart, RN, CDE, patient diabetes educator at Mission Trail Baptist Hospital (MTBH) in San Antonio. Stewart also invited the two to join the monthly Diabetes Support Group, which she helped launch a year ago. The support group is a partnership between MTBH and the local Najim YMCA on San Antonio’s South Side, the area of town where higher rates of obesity and diabetes were reported by a recent Bexar County Community Health Assessment.

“Brenda is an angel,” Janavaras said. “She provided us with all of the information we needed to turn our lives around. She would call me regularly to check in on us and helped us to stay on track with our diet and exercise plans,” she said. Now, we also both attend the Diabetes Support Group regularly where we learn about healthy nutrition and exercise and share concerns and goals with others in the group.

“Thanks to Brenda and her support group, I’m controlling my diabetes with diet and exercise. I don’t take medications and my daughter has completely reversed her condition. Her blood sugar levels are normal!” Janavaras exclaimed.

Stewart, who herself was diagnosed with diabetes on her 40th birthday 14 years ago in March, remains free from taking medication and controls her disease through diet and exercise including Cross Fit, walking and dancing. Stewart says that living with the disease helps her better relate to her patients.

“Although I was angry and embarrassed when I was first diagnosed, the disease is in some ways a gift because it motivates me to be a positive example to my patients and helps me understand their challenges,” she said.

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