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Howard Memorial Hospital Helps a Soldier “Out of the Dust”

Patient Stories


Date: December 18, 2011

Contact: Kristen Meadows
Marketing Specialist
Howard Memorial Hospital

Willits - During the holidays, success stories like this one remind us of the gifts of the season.

- During the holidays, success stories like this one remind us of the gifts of the season.

As a soldier, your job is to stay alive and keep your team (and your country) safe. As a member of Search and Rescue, your job is to pull others from harm's way. Imagine yourself as the type of person who is used to helping others, having your physical strength be a core part of your persona, and for whom danger is an external rather than an internal threat.

Meet Geoff Shires, a former soldier and Search and Rescue team member who had his whole life turned upside down by diabetes until he met the team at HMH.

According to the American Diabetes Association, type 2 diabetes (the most common form) means either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to use glucose for energy. When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the body's cells. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can lead to diabetes complications.

After Geoff's military service and Search and Rescue days were over, he was working locally when he got violently ill. "I didn't know what was wrong," Geoff said. He was sick, losing weight, and had a sore on his foot that wouldn't heal.

Upon hospitalization, he learned that he had diabetes. "My blood glucose was at 11 and at first I needed five insulin shots a day," he said.

By working with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bill Bowen and registered dietician Annie Dogali, Geoff was able to learn how to manage his diabetes, but not before he lost part of his big toe to the disease. "I'm that guy you hear about who had to have his toe cut off," he said. "It was bad."

"None of [my diabetes education] made sense until I got here (to HMH). Getting better was a team effort...Everyone I came in contact with--registration staff, nurses, CNAs, kitchen staff, everyone--they deserve the credit," Geoff said. "I was just the lucky recipient of superior medical care. Their continual positive reinforcement and synergy brought me through." After working with the team during his multiple hospitalizations, he began to understand how to get his life in balance. His strength improved, his diet and insulin balance improved, and he had the energy to enjoy his life again.

He referred to himself as a person with strong faith and compared his experience to that of the Biblical character, Job. "It was three years of hell, but I'm out of the dust," he said with a smile.