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How teamwork helped Mickey with COVID-19 and type 2 diabetes

Learn how Mickey’s care team and community center helped him though COVID-19 and type 2 diabetes to find a healthier, happier life.

August 10, 2023 | 5-minute read

What do health care and the symphony have in common? Optum nurse practitioner Patricia Summers knows the answer.

Patricia thinks of primary care doctors as orchestra conductors. Just as a conductor leads an orchestra, a primary care doctor guides a health care team. The conductor brings together many different instruments. Each one plays their own part. Yet, they harmonize to create a beautiful symphony.

It’s the same way at Optum. Doctors, nurses and others all play a role in giving care. But everyone on the care team follows the same sheet music, if you will. They all want the very best for their patients.

Patricia has worked in health care for 25 years. Today, she runs the Optum diabetes care program in Arizona. Diabetes is a health problem where your blood sugar levels get too high and low. 

In this role she teaches people how diabetes impacts their bodies. She also educates them on why they get blood sugar spikes and tracks their numbers.

Mickey and partner Vicki on a motorcycle.

Health challenges after COVID-19

Diabetes is what led Medicare Advantage member Mickey to find Patricia. Mickey, age 68, had developed type 2 diabetes years before he met Patricia. In general, his numbers were good. But in 2021, his sugar levels took a steep nosedive.

That’s the year when Mickey and his spouse both got COVID-19. It was serious enough to put them both in the hospital. There were some close calls.

“I was in the hospital for 24 days. I almost died on day 10 or 11. I was exhausted. It was the hardest part of my life,” Mickey recalled.

Eventually, Mickey finally felt well enough to go home. But tragically, his wife of many years didn’t make it out with him. He didn’t even get to see her before she passed away.

Mickey’s life changed drastically after his time in the hospital. Suddenly single, he didn’t know how to cope with his health or daily life. Without his beloved wife by his side, he didn’t take care of himself as he should. He was in a dark place mentally.

“For almost 2 years, I sat on the couch,” Mickey said. “I watched TV. I was probably a little depressed, not real happy.”

Mickey’s diabetes suffered as well.  His blood sugar wasn’t stable. And he didn’t have the energy or mental space to care as much as he should. Plus, COVID-19 made it harder to get appointments.

Care made easier

One day, Patricia’s diabetes program flyer caught Mickey’s eye. Desperate for help, he signed up for her program. 

Mickey and Patricia set up their first Zoom call soon afterwards. Patricia could tell that Mickey needed support for more than just diabetes.

He told her about losing his wife and that he was feeling sad and lonely. So Patricia suggested he check out his local Optum Community Center. These centers are the perfect place to stay active, meet others and have fun.

Mickey took her up on it. His outgoing personality helped him fit right in. He learned how to use the workout equipment and quickly became a regular.

Working with an Optum specialist like Patricia can be life-changing. It was for Mickey. That’s because these specialists work closely with your doctor and care team.

The whole team works together to make it easier to get the care you need, when you need it. And they see to it that people get the right follow-up care after a hospital stay.

In Mickey’s case, he needed that care right away. Patricia worked with his doctor to get Mickey’s medical history. That background let her better help them both.

“The goal is that we all are taking care of the patient to help them get healthier,” she said.

Patricia got straight to work reading Mickey’s charts. The pair then began meeting on Zoom for 30 to 45 minutes every week or so. That might sound like a long time in today’s rush-rush society. But it’s not at all unusual if you have an Optum specialist.

“With Optum, I have the time to spend with a person,” said Patricia. “I get time to really help them understand their health problems.” She added, “I take the time to help them understand their medicines. I want them to know why they take a medicine and its importance. People can then take part in their care. And eventually be healthier.”

Patricia saw that Mickey’s sugars were going up and down. They’d spike up really high one day. They’d then dip dangerously low the next day. He was living alone now and eating healthy was a big challenge.

Patricia and Mickey talked about eating healthier. Healthy meals would help balance his blood sugar. She also got him a device that checks his blood sugar in real time. This way Patricia could check in and see where his numbers stood. She could also get a better sense of how his health was progressing.

While they worked on his sugar, she gently helped him work through his grief.

All together now

COVID-19 also gave Mickey another health problem to battle. The illness damaged his lungs and made them work harder. This made it a real struggle for Mickey to breathe and get the air his body needed.

Patricia sprang into action. She had heard about a special lung medicine for people who got COVID-19. She reached out to a pharmacy team to see about getting it for Mickey.

The problem was that this medicine cost far more than Mickey could afford. Set on making it work, Patricia and the pharmacy team figured out a plan. They worked together to get Mickey’s plan to cover the cost.

This team approach is what makes Medicare Advantage and Optum so attractive to people like Mickey. Keeping people healthy goes beyond the exam room.

Some Medicare Advantage patients can get extra help, like Mickey’s diabetes program. His plan helped him work extra closely with his doctor to help him heal and get healthier.

“Everybody is working together to get me better. That’s my goal,” Mickey said. “Optum helps you talk with all your medical teams.”

Making care easier is what it’s all about. For people with diabetes or other long-lasting problems, Optum is there for them.

“We’re the people’s champion,” Patricia said. “We’re here to support them. They can get what they need with a health care system working for them. They don’t have to fight the battle to get things done.”

Ending on a high note

Today, Mickey is happy to report that life’s good again. Really good. He shed 20 pounds and his sugar levels are stable again.

And he’s extra thankful for Patricia’s quality care. He’s also grateful that she suggested he check out the Optum Community Center. Not only did he find a community there, he also found love again. Mickey and his new girlfriend, Vicki, met in a class there called BrainSavers.

The couple loves taking long motorcycle rides together. Usually, Mickey is in front. Vicki sits behind, with her arms wrapped around him. You’ll often spot them in matching Harley gear. But what they love most of all is spending quality time together.

Patricia is overjoyed at Mickey’s new chapter. “What brings me joy is having people happy and healthy,” she said. “Being able to enjoy life. If they can’t enjoy life, then what’s the point?”

Get care made easier, like Mickey

Inspired by Mickey’s story? To see how you get the care you need, when you need it from your care team, call or click today. 

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