Aaron Perry, the world’s first African American diabetic to complete the Ironman, was first diagnosed with diabetes more than 25 years and he is fairly confident that he was living with diabetes two or three years before that diagnosis was made.

“I had all of the symptoms – frequent urination, blurred vision, a cough that I couldn’t get rid of. All of those are symptoms are diabetes or pre-diabetes,” Perry tells Madison365. “I finally went in and got tested after having these dreadful symptoms for years and I’ll never forget the day when the little nurse came out when I went to an urgent care in Davenport, Iowa, where I was living at the time, and they did a blood test on me.”

Aaron Perry is the first African American Diabetic man to ever finish an Ironman Triathlon.

The nurse came back and told Perry that he had to immediately go across the street and check himself into the emergency room.

“I asked: ‘Why?’ and she said, ‘Well, your blood sugars are registering off of our scale and our scale goes up to 700. The normal is between 80 and 120. I’m sorry, you’re diabetic.'”

Perry, the founder of Rebalanced-Life Wellness Associations (RLWA) Men’s Health & Education Center, a new innovative health model for reducing health disparities located inside of JP Hair Design, Madison’s largest African-American barbershop, is not afraid to tell his story about diabetes in hopes of getting men to come out to a free diabetes screening that RLWA is hosting today.

“I had all of the symptoms for diabetes, but I wasn’t educated on it,” Perry remembers. “Had I been educated about it, I would have known right away. That’s why I’m encouraging the community to come out today because 89 million people in the United States are living with pre-diabetes and they don’t know it. But if we get educated on it and we get tested, at least we will know our risk level.”

Dr. Jonas Lee, a family medicine doctor, will be doing all of the diabetes tests and consultations at RLWA today from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. It’s all free, so there’s no reason not to come out today, Perry says.

“When you talk about this, man, you can go into a diabetic coma. There are many things that can happen to you if your blood sugar gets too high or too low,” Perry says. “That’s why we want people to come in and get educated. The number one thing I hear is: ‘I don’t want bad news.’ My response to that is: ‘I would imagine your family wouldn’t want bad news either if something happens to you.’

“So come on in today. It just takes a couple of minutes and it’s so important,” Perry adds.

For more information about today’s free diabetes screening, e-mail [email protected]