Sgt. 1st Class Kahlil Celotto was the picture of good health. Twenty-one years in the Army with no issues then BAM! “I was deployed to the Middle East earlier this year and found out I am diabetic,” said Celotto.
It may seem unusual that Celotto would not know he has a family history of diabetes. After his incident he did some research in finding members of his birth family. Celotto was adopted, and learned several members are also diabetic.
“I woke up in a hospital bed, I had IVs in my arm, and it was 30 hours later. The doctor told me if I weren’t in such good shape, I probably would not have made it.” Celotto was diagnosed with Diabetic Keto acidosis – it’s when your blood turns acidic. “It was burning through all my fat and started eating at my muscle- that’s how I lost thirty-eight pounds so quickly,” explained Celotto.
He lost thirty-eight pounds in eight days and almost went into a diabetic coma. He was medevacked out and ended up at the Fort Drum Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU).
Besides being in the dark about diabetes, he was unaware of what the SRU could do for him or why he was even there.
“I knew of the ARCP but thought it was only for Soldiers with serious injuries, you know those guys that lose limbs. I never thought it was a place for me. It was fear of the unknown. Once I got here, I thought this is the greatest thing since sliced bread,” said Celotto.
He learned to adapt physically but there was a mental aspect to having diabetes the Fort Drum SRU’s Cadre worked on with him.
“I was pitying myself thinking why this is happening to me it’s going to affect my career. I wondered if people thought I really didn’t take care of myself.”
Enter the events, activity and education offered at the Fort Drum SRU. As Celotto was learning how to combat Diabetes, he also had several hands-on events to help take his mind to a healing place. One class in particular was the Tie Dye class.
“The activities and programs here at SRU provide the Soldiers with positive experiences to help them heal and move forward. Although each Soldier has his or her individual goals for healing and transition, group activities such as the Tie Dye class help to bring soldiers in recovery together and provide some common ground which helps them toward achieving social goals. Also, activities where the soldiers can create a t-shirt with choice of design and colors can promote a sense of achievement and self-pride which helps soldiers in recovery heal emotionally,” said Teresa Kramer, Adaptive Reconditioning Program Specialist at the Fort Drum SRU. Celotto will medically retire and like you would expect, it’s a tough feeling for a career Soldier.
“I’ve spent 21 years serving; it’s not easy to learn I must move on. Soldiers have told me to hold my head up, that I’ve contributed much to people’s lives in 21 years, and I have earned the right to relax,” said Celotto.
His experience over six months at the SRU showed him he can recover and overcome and his advice to other Soldiers is not to be afraid to ask for help.
“I’ve never been in a place military wise that has so many people that genuinely care what happens to you.”