Spreading the word on diabetes: Radio show educates listeners on disease

The following is from the January 1, 2008 edition of “The Daily Journal“:

When Kitty Castellini goes on the air with her new call-in show Tuesdays on Cruisin’ 92.1 WVLT, Diabetes Living Today, she knows what she’s talking about — even if listeners may not.

A diabetic herself until getting a pancreas transplant three years ago, Castellini was kept busy fielding calls and questions from 8 to 9 p.m.

The Vineland resident was asked by the radio station to produce a show after appearing on another show last October.

So far, she has done three shows, and looks forward to reaching out to listeners every week.”There are a lot of people out there like myself and it’s a battle every day,” she said, adding that she hopes to get listeners to understand how diabetes affects every part of the body. “We’re giving back.”

A recent hour on the show included discussions of larger issues associated with Type 1 diabetes, which is diagnosed in childhood, as well as Type 2, which usually appears in adulthood due, in part to lifestyle.

Castellini has never done a radio show before, but she’s feeling at home behind the mic.

“Wake up Dr. Fallon!,” she boomed recently near the end of one program, referring to her endocrinologist, Dr. Joseph J. Fallon of Woodbury, like her a Type 1 diabetic and a show co-founder who encouraged her transplant.

Castellini and Fallon have a real goal for their time on the air, and hope to spread the word each week.

“Take a step back and rethink your diabetes,” she said. “Gget yourself under control and prevent these conditions that affect so many diabetics.”

During one broadcast, Fallon was not in the broadcast studio but was on standby to ask and to answer questions about diabetes, along with Castellini’s guest, Dr. Arijit Chakravarty, a transplant nephrologist at Lourdes Health System in Camden County.

Dr. Chakravarty’s presence may have accounted for the emergence of an aspect of diabetes not as well known as blood sugar levels and insulin pumps — diabetes’ relationship to kidney disease.

In a sense the kidneys are the gateway to the diagnosis of diabetes. Lab tests on the urine the kidneys generate while filtering a person’s blood, removing wastes and water from it and helping to control blood pressure, determine the levels of glucose, protein and ketones, which are produced by the breakdown of fat and muscle.

Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, for instance, if blood glucose after fasting is above 126 mg.

But the kidneys are also subject to damage from diabetes. Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney dialysis or replacement, Dr. Chakravarty told listeners.

Castellini added that 200,000 Americans currently receive kidney dialysis treatments.

And transplants of the pancreas are often accompanied by kidney transplants.

Doctors are not yet sure exactly how diabetes causes kidney damage, Dr. Chakravarty said after the show.

Kidney disease also can affect blood pressure. One third of the U.S. population suffers from hypertension, Dr. Fallon noted by telephone. It is also of particular concern to diabetics, who are advised to keep it lower than the general public’s with a norm of 130/80 recommended by the American Diabetes Association.

And it can affect the amount of a protein in the body that produces red blood cells, leading to anemia. One way to offset this deficiency is to use a manmade form of the protein, called Procrit. It was of interest to yet another caller, who was warned against overusing it.

There was good news for at least one caller, a Type 1 diabetic who wanted to know what the chances were of developing kidney disease after 25 years. Fifteen years without developing nephropathy, he was told, “may be a good prognosis.”

Castellini was also eager to end on an upbeat note. “Sometimes I want to slow down,” she admitted, But I still have a lot of energy for a transplant patient.

“I didn’t know how sick I was until I found out how good I could feel.”