Support Diabetes Education, Win a Dream Vacation

Kalispell Lions Club presents raffle to support hospital’s diabetes support program

By Molly Priddy
Donita Magnuson, pictured on May 5, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

As a 27-year-old first-grade teacher, Donita Magnuson thought the fatigue was from her job. She’d also started consciously drinking more water, so it made sense to her that she had to rush to bathroom nearly every hour. And the excess thirst? That was probably part of this new water regimen, too, she thought.

But last Nov. 19, Magnuson knew something was amiss. She thought she was getting pneumonia, which she’d had before, as she sat through parent-teacher conferences, but this felt different. She was losing her thoughts, and her body wasn’t complying. Late that night, she vomited black. That was what made her go to the emergency room.

And when the doctors asked her about diabetes, Magnuson drew a blank. It didn’t run in her family, but subsequent tests proved she had the Type-1 variation of the disease, meaning her pancreas wasn’t naturally producing enough insulin, which our bodies need to allow sugar to enter our cells for energy. Without glucose, the brain can’t function.

“I had all the signs,” she said in an interview with the Beacon last week. “But because I was not aware of them, I blew them off completely.”

A diabetes diagnosis changed her life completely, but Magnuson said the support she’s found through the Diabetes Education and Prevention Program department at Kalispell Regional Medical Center has given her the tools to help her cope with her new reality.

“It’s changed (my life) dramatically,” Magnuson said. “I try to be positive about it, but it’s definitely challenging.”

Educating the public about diabetes and diabetes prevention is the goal of the hospital’s program, which has found a partner in the Kalispell Lions Club. The club is once again hosting its Dream Vacation Raffle fundraiser, offering just 300 tickets with the chance to win up to six trips.

These trips include a seven-night western Caribbean cruise, the drawing for which takes place May 30. Other trips include a clipper ferry vacation from Seattle to Victoria, B.C., a Seawhawks or Broncos sports package, a trip to San Diego, a week in Cancun, and a seven-night Alaskan cruise. All tickets sold will be entered into all drawings, so in theory, a ticketholder could win all six vacations. The drawings occur monthly.

Net proceeds from the tickets will be divided equally among local food banks, the Kalispell Regional Healthcare Foundation Diabetes Fund, and eyeglass purchases.

When she thinks about the night she went to the emergency room, Magnuson is thankful she listened to her body when it told her something was wrong. The emergency room physicians realized she was in a state of diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal complication that occurs when the body doesn’t have enough insulin.

Had she gone back to sleep and ignored it, Magnuson believes she would have slipped into a diabetic coma, from which she may have never awoken. She hopes people begin to recognize the signs of diabetes — fatigue, extreme thirst, and frequent urination — not only in themselves but in others.

She also hopes education about the two types of diabetes proliferates. Type-2, which is far more common than Type-1, develops as a body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough of it. This can be treated with medication and changes in lifestyle, whereas Type-1 is not yet curable.

One of Magnuson’s biggest fears is the current unrest around health insurance. Under the latest version of the American Health Care Act passed by U.S. House Republicans, she would qualify as having a pre-existing condition, and an expensive one at that.

Magnuson said she’s watching that situation develop, but she also got a new teaching job that includes health benefits. It’s all part of adjusting to her new position in the world.

“It was really emotional for me,” she said of her diagnosis. “It rocks your world for sure.”

Tickets for the Dream Vacation Raffle can be purchased at www.LionsDreamVacation.org or by calling the Kalispell Lions Club at (406) 309-0992.

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