By Isabel Garcia
Leticia Rodriguez – a 66-year-old Segundo Barrio resident – has lost vision in her left eye due to diabetes and says she struggles with everyday living because she is obese.
Rodriguez has trouble getting into cars, can’t see her feet and her caregiver performs most of her day-to-day tasks for her because she’s suffering from diabetes and obesity.
“My diabetes was part of losing my vision and then it went from there to not being able to lose weight,” Rodriguez said. “You go into all these diets and they work for a little bit, but you get it right back.”
Rodriguez has found support at Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe. Rodriguez is one of the 300,000 patients who use the services at La Fe. The center has guided her on taking care of herself and combating the chronic conditions.
Before Rodriguez was forced to retire due to blindness that developed as an effect from diabetes, she worked at Providence Memorial Hospital for 33 years.
After retiring, the company softball games that helped Rodriguez stay in shape ended and her weight gain began. She could no longer rely on the purpose she found in her work, causing depression to set it, and obesity to takeoff.
With obesity on the rise, El Paso women like Rodriguez, dealing with the disease turn to La Fe, to improve and maintain their health.
“I was always healthy, I’ve never said I’ve been skinny,” Rodriguez said. “The weight started when I stopped working.”
In a 2018 survey conducted by Wallet Hub, El Paso ranks as the 33rd most obese city in the United States. Many people do not know that diabetes and obesity are not directly connected to each other.
The Harvard Gazette reported that about 30 percent of people who suffer from obesity also suffer from diabetes. Additionally, 85 percent of the people who are classified as diabetic are overweight.
Monica Cedillos, a diabetes educator at La Fe, said “we are doing better than other years but I think we are still up there in one of the largest cities with overweight and obesity problems. Get up and move.”
Cedillos is just one of the many professionals working at one of the twenty-two sites La Fe has including, 11 clinics, HIV testing centers and other wellness centers. The organization is made specifically for lower income families who would not have access to health care treatments otherwise. The services are given to any registered member who lives in El Paso County.
“One of the best activities people can do to watch their weight is, get up and walk,” Cedillos said. Another tip Cedillos has is to limit the amount of television we watch on a daily basis. Sedillos suggests only one hour of television for every four hours.
“One of the biggest reasons it is a problem here is the food and not being as active as other cities,” Cedillos said. “Usually when we have couch potatoes we just tell them not to sit too long just watching TV.”
El Paso’s widely known Mexican cuisine makes it difficult to eat sensibly since many dishes are greasy, and high in carbs and cheese. Posters on display during a class at La Fe directed patients to walk 30 minutes a day and make healthier choices.
Rodriguez, who has been struggling with obesity and diabetes for 40 years, has expressed interest in cooking like she once did before obesity changed her diet, and cannot remember how to do some tasks that many others take for granted. She depends on her caregiver to help with chores such as washing clothes and dishes.
“I have a caregiver in the morning and I have one in the evening because I can’t reach my feet and I can’t get in the shower. I have a shower chair, but being able to get in there, she has to help me.
“My motivation is my grandkids,” Rodriguez said. “I was literally on my death bed with an infection and I had a granddaughter who kept crying and telling me that I needed to be here for her quinceñera.”
For Rodriguez, the struggles that come with obesity are worth it because she wants to stay healthy for her family especially her six grandchildren. The grandchildren act as a motivation to keep up with her physical health and to do the best she can to live a longer life.
Rodriguez gets through her health struggles by going to dialysis, changing her diet, and being as physically active as she can daily.
In addition to altering her home routine, Rodriguez also attends the diabetes education class offered by La Fe where she educates herself and gets assistance from the friendly staff members which try their best to give outstanding service to all their patients.
This story was produced as part of the Journalism in July 2018 workshop for high school students at UT El Paso.