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Deputy Mayor of Upper Deerfield believes it’s never too late to start taking care of yourself

Nov 28, 2023

John Daddario, a lifelong resident of south Jersey, former local business owner, and current Deputy Mayor of Upper Deerfield, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes so long ago he’s not certain of the year.

“I had all the symptoms before I was diagnosed,” John, now 61, said.  “But I also had what I call ‘white coat syndrome’. I avoided doctors.”

Two hospital nurses working at a work station.

As the years passed, John’s condition worsened. As many people do, he put on weight and became less physically active. He was on medication for his diabetes but admits that he wasn’t doing all he could to take care of himself.

“I had always been on the heavier side. After the diagnosis, I went back to living what I called a normal life,” he said. “But I wasn’t exercising. I wasn’t watching my diet and I wasn’t strict enough about my medications.”

At one point John said his weight went over 300 pounds. By December, 2022, though he had lost some weight, he had not seen a doctor for several years, something he admits negatively affected his health.

The day after Christmas, John had what he thought was a virus and began to experience bouts of vomiting. When his son, Kyle, and daughter-in-law Emily, who is a registered nurse, came over to see him a few days later, they were concerned enough that they took him immediately to the emergency department at Inspira Medical Center Elmer.

John was severely dehydrated, and experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious complication of diabetes that can quickly become life-threatening. DKA develops when the body doesn't have enough insulin to let blood sugar into cells for use as energy. Medication, when taken correctly, can help prevent DKA.

He was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).

Over the next few days John was treated and recovered at Inspira Elmer. He said this “scary experience” and the dedication of his care team helped him make the decision to take control of his own health care.

“One of the nurses who took care of me in the ICU, was in her last two days before retirement. She could have coasted, but instead she was amazing. She called my wife, Gail, to give her updates. She really went over and above!”

John said that two other ICU staff members, Chuck Bay, R.N., and Sheila Bennett, R.N., also showed him “the kind of care everyone should be lucky enough to experience.”

“In my opinion, Chuck may be the best person in the hospital,” John said. “He assured me that I was in good hands and was going home. He even joked with me when I needed it. Even when I was moved out of the ICU, he came down to check on me after his shift. Sheila was just amazing too. Maybe they’re all that good at Inspira!”

While still in the hospital, John had a consultation with a registered dietitian about healthy eating habits. When he was discharged in early January, he had a whole new outlook.

“I’ve got the eye of the tiger now! I’m back on my medication and my goal is to be able to come off it someday by doing the right things. Once you decide that enough is enough, you just do it!”

John is following dietary recommendations and has made exercise part of his lifestyle.

“I’m limiting carbs, not snacking, and I’ve cut out alcohol. I put the pedal to metal. At first, I only made it halfway around the front yard. Then it was a full trip. I kept building. Getting up out of bed used to be chore. Now I walk 3 miles a day and work out every other day. Nothing crazy, just building up my core strength. The best days to work out are the days you don’t feel like it.”

John has lost over seventy pounds and his blood glucose numbers and A1C have returned to acceptable levels.

John said a major reason for his dedication to his health is that he wants to be there for Gail, their other adult son, Tyler, and for Kyle and Emily’s newborn son, John’s and Gail’s first grandchild.

“Being a grandfather is amazing. There’s something new every day. And if you’re sick, you can miss a lot. I don’t want to miss anything. I’m looking forward to seeing him graduate high school!”

John also credits his positive experience at Inspira for his new outlook.

“What they did for me was life changing. I feel fifteen years younger than I did just a few months ago. I tell my buddies that if I can do it, they can too. I know it’s up to me, but the people at Inspira got me started. They gave me the confidence that I can do it.”

Topics: Diabetes