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Wellness journey: Richardson finds Wellness program, Fit Bit are great benefits

by on March 12, 2014
Nelda Richardson in 2006, prior to her diagnosis as a diabetic.

AEP cares about the safety, health and well-being of its employees. All employees are invited to share their stories about the changes they are making to live healthier lives. This “Wellness Journey” is from Nelda Richardson, administrative associate with Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) at PSO’s Chickasha Distribution Service Center in Chickasha, Okla. These articles represent only the views and opinions of the employee and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of AEP.

Where I was and how I got there:

For most of my life, I thought of myself as a fairly healthy person, until one day I just woke up to a very unhealthy body and wondered how I got there. Both my parents were obese and had high blood pressure. My mother suffered a stroke, and my dad was a diabetic in his later years. All three sisters and one brother had high blood pressure and were heavyset. Since I was the next to the youngest sibling of seven children, I knew from an early age that I did not want any of these things to happen to me.

I thought I had things under control until that dark, gloomy day in 2002, the doctor told me that I was a diabetic. I wondered how this could happen. I had three brothers and three sisters and not one of them had diabetes. Why me? I always thought my worst habit was drinking Coca-Cola. I did not smoke or drink alcohol, but I did drink a lot of cola.

I was immediately put on a strict diet and went to a nutritionist to teach me what and how to eat my meals in order to control my diabetes with diet. That day, I quit drinking Coke and have never picked it up since. But my doctor and nutritional training convinced me that it was not the Coke that caused diabetes. The nutritional training taught me how to eat and to keep my diabetes under control for several years with diet, but I was warned that in time I would probably have to go on medication.

My turning point:

In 2006, I began to have problems with my knees. They would hurt and they started to give out on me. The doctors said it was from years of walking and standing and I was told that I needed to have both knees replaced. I was not ready for this but after several weeks of deliberation, I decided to go ahead and start with the right knee replacement. The doctor’s office set me up for a pre-operation visit and tests. The next day, test results came back and I received a call from my doctor’s office saying they wanted me to come in that day. I knew that there was something going on, but I never dreamed that I would be told what I heard.

Nelda Richardson shown recently with her newest grandchild.

The surgery was to be postponed because the cardiogram showed that I had had a heart attack. I had never felt anything, ever, so I thought surely they had made a mistake. The doctor called it a “silent heart attack” and went on to tell me that this is common with diabetics. The bottom part of my heart was damaged and blood was no longer flowing normally in that part of my heart. I had an immediate appointment with a heart specialist the next day, and he wasted no time in setting me up for an angiogram to see what damage had occurred.

As a result, I was put on heart, blood pressure and cholesterol medication. My life had taken another drastic change in just a matter of days. Three weeks later I had my right knee replaced. All went well as I adjusted to my new health challenges. This has been over eight years ago, and I try to live each day as if there is no tomorrow. I take my meds, keep moving and try to eat healthy every day. Some days are harder than others, as I had three stents put in my heart last year and I have to take a stress test every other year.

Significant changes that I have made:

Being the Wellness Champion here at work has made such a big difference in my life. I don’t want others to suffer like I did, not realizing what was happening to my body. The Wellness program provided by AEP helps keep me active and probably helps keep me alive. The program provides wonderful tools for anyone to use, to live healthy as long as we can. So many changes happen to our bodies as we age, we need to learn ahead of time how to take care of ourselves so that we can live healthier longer.

Another change I have made is using a Fit Bit, which has been a tremendous blessing in keeping me motivated about my health and activities. It keeps my health in the forefront of my mind in everything that I do. When I first started using the Fit Bit, I went right to work on getting it set up. I plugged it into my home laptop, registered it and synched it. The next day I could not wait to get home to check my progress. It has been that way every day since I received it. It sends a weekly progress report to my email to tell me how I am doing. Within five weeks, I got my first “badge.” I couldn’t believe it — I had actually walked 50 miles!

My blood sugar is staying near normal and I feel better. Walking more keeps my metabolism up and my blood circulating, and keeps me encouraged to “keep on keeping on.” I will be 70 this year, but I don’t feel 70! I don’t feel 20, either, but I don’t feel as old as I am and I believe that the Wellness program and my Fit Bit are the reasons why.

So now I get up and walk, every day. I don’t ask someone to take something somewhere — I take it myself. Most of my miles have been done at work, in my daily tasks. I walk other miles when I do errands like grocery shopping. I take my time and add steps to my Fit Bit. It has changed my life! I have lost 17 pounds just by keeping up this activity and it is now a way of life for me. I wear my Fit Bit under my clothes and no one even knows that I have it on.

Paying it forward:

The Fit Bit has been such an encouragement to me that I bought my 79-year-old sister one for Christmas and she loves it. I would encourage anyone who wants to be more active to buy one, just go to and check them out. Try it, you’ll like it.

Do you have a wellness journey you’d like to share? Your story can be about weight loss, overcoming an illness, maintaining good health habits or some other health-related topic. Just send an email to Dave Waitkus at

From → Wellness

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