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On the Path to Health

October 13, 2020 3:46 p.m.

  • Jean Fulton

Arcola resident is happy for improved health after beginning prevention program and regular exercise.

Jean Fulton credits SBL Cardiologist Michael LaMonto, DO, for leading her to the path of improved health. “He looked at the big picture and was adamant about discovering the source of my troubles,” Jean explained.

Jean was not physically active when she learned she was pre-diabetic.“I was tired all the time, but my health just wasn’t a priority,” she said. Yet, Jean’s attitude quickly changed after she experienced a health scare in October 2018. “I went to the Emergency Department with chest pain that was radiating to my neck and into my arms,” she said. 

A heart catheterization revealed good news during her weekend hospital stay at Sarah Bush Lincoln; her heart was strong and had no blockages.

While at SBL, however, Jean made a connection with Dr. LaMonto that changed her life. He ordered an examination of her upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which revealed a hiatal hernia and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Though Jean was already taking medication for acid reflux, she learned that hiatal hernia pain can sometimes mimic heart problems.

Dr. LaMonto also discovered her A1C, a common blood sugar test used to diagnose diabetes, was alarmingly high and in the prediabetic range. “There’s actually lots of diabetes in my mother’s side of the family. There’s heart disease in my family too; my dad died at 61 after his second heart attack, and my mother has had triple bypass surgery. She’s on her second pacemaker,” Jean said.

Following Dr. LaMonto’s recommendation, Jean enrolled in prediabetes prevention classes now offered at the Mattoon Area Family YMCA, in partnership with Sarah Bush Lincoln. The program is designed to help adults at risk for developing type 2 diabetes reduce their risks, by eating more healthfully and increasing their physical activity. The program consists of 25 one-hour sessions delivered over the course of a year.  

Jean faithfully attended classes and exercised by walking at least 8,000 steps each day in neighborhoods near her Arcola home. “It was difficult at first because I had a hip that was bothering me and I wasn’t active at all before,” she said. Jean visited SBL Arcola Clinic Family Practitioner Robert Biggs, MD, who told her she had bursitis in her hip and to rest it as needed— but to continue exercising.

“I kept walking even though it hurt, and somewhere along the way, I realized my hip didn’t hurt anymore,” Jean said. Dr. Biggs retested Jean’s A1C during a follow-up appointment in January, and her numbers were much improved and stable. “Dr. Biggs was impressed with my progress,” she said. 

By the time Jean had completed the pre-diabetic program in early March, she had lost a total of 30 pounds. Dr. LaMonto was impressed with Jean’s progress and her fortitude. “I still take medicine for high blood pressure, but I’m grateful that I don’t have to take medicine for diabetes— and I’d like to keep it that way! He absolutely got me moving in the right direction.” 

Jean said of Dr. LaMonto, “I appreciate his demeanor, his friendliness and his interest in his patients. That’s why I want my husband to see him as well— because of the way he guided me and took care of me. He’s the reason I’ve been successful— of where I am today.”

At 66, Jean is thankful for her improved health, and she is determined to keep moving to keep both heart disease and diabetes at bay. She wears a Fitbit— a birthday gift from her husband, Greg, and two of their children— and finds that it helps to keep her motivated. For stress relief, she plays the piano. As pianist for the First Baptist Church of Arcola, Jean has been sharing three hymns each Sunday on Facebook to provide a sense of calm and comfort during the pandemic.

To make an appointment with Dr. LaMonto at the SBL Heart Center, call 217 238-4960.


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