One thing most people know about 63-year-old Suzi Vietti is never to say “never” to her. It might be one of her most detested words; given the number of times she has heard it.
As a teenager, Suzi was required to test her glucose levels by dipping yellow paper strips in her urine, and then comparing her results to the colors on the chart. Learning to take insulin injections came from a book.
It did not help that her doctors’ knew very little about diabetes. Especially when they were unsure whether to raise or lower her insulin doses based on her physical responses. She was told to avoid physical activities to prevent these fluctuations.
Getting pregnant was out of the question until she met an obstetrician with diabetes. Today she has three healthy adult children.
Matthew Corcoran, an MD and founder of the Diabetes Training Camp, taught Suzi how to manage her insulin and exercise, which later inspired her to train for a half marathon.
When she experienced transverse myelitisa, a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spine, doctors said she could never drive, run or walk. Grabbing the first wheelchair available after her transverse myelitis diagnosis, she took the bet her daughters tossed her way. Next year, they would all run a half marathon together. While her therapy was painful, Suzi did learn to walk using a treadmill, she also started running. One year after her physical therapy, she and her daughters did run that half marathon.
Suzi’s devotion to exercise kept her on single insulin injections. The insulin pumps that were available at the time included tubing that she felt would limit her ability to be active. The arrival of the Omnipod changed her mind about insulin pumps and her diabetes.
“It is just God’s gift to the free world. It is the most wonderful thing ever,” said Suzi, who waited impatiently for access to the new innovative pump. Initially, the OmniPod was only available to patients who lived in the East and West coasts and not the Midwest, where she lived.
When she finally got her Omnipod, it became her companion. She has since run two more half marathons and continues to participate in a grueling CrossFit class. She is the oldest in her class and relishes the mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercise that keeps her blood glucose levels stable throughout her workout.
Suzi also likes to go rock climbing, skydiving and flies a powered parachute. She has earned the designation of “First Female Sport Pilot” by the Federal Aviation Administration. This came after flying her parachute in 48 States in the United States.
Up next for her is a parachuting trip to the rugged mountains of Utah with her husband, Bill. “It has been a favorite trip of ours,” said the woman for whom the sky is the limit.
Suzi was recently named a 50-year Medalist by the Joslin Diabetes Center for her five decades of living successfully with the disease.
“When they say, ‘you cannot do something because you are a diabetic that is just not true. I don’t like to hear that,” she said. “At conferences, so many people come up to me and say ‘I am so glad you are here. I have never known anyone that’s been a diabetic for such a long time and has done all the things you have.’ I never feared what was going to happen to me, as I got older,” says Suzi, This is the gift I can give to other people. Letting them know that the world is wide open.”