A memorable man with an unforgettable disease
There are people in your life that stand out in your memories. A grade school teacher, a former sports coach, a minister that said the right thing at the right time or perhaps someone’s eyes that haunt your dreams when tragedy strikes; they create impressions that are hard to forget.
Recently I met a young man that will live in my memory bank for a long time. He is more than 20 years younger than me. He is twice my weight although our height is the same. He was in the bed, and I was standing at the foot of the bed. I met him in the hospital earlier this year and once again our paths crossed.
His diagnosis is diabetes and a multitude of unwanted related complications. He has a history of admittances to the acute care unit. This visit was because of swelling in his body caused by excess fluid and uncontrolled diabetes.
November is National Diabetes Month. Meeting this man again was a surprise to me, how apropos during the month that commemorates this disease. His admittance and the remembrance of diabetes are not celebrations but reminders that diabetes is a life-changing disease that requires a lot of attention.
Heart disease, kidney malfunction, vascular problem and other difficulties are related to the imbalance of insulin and sugar. Insulin is a hormone that the body produces. Its main function is to allow the body to use the food eaten and turn it into energy.
Many people with diabetes think that they have a sugar problem. In fact, many refer to this disease as, “having sugar.” Thoughts immediately go to cakes, cookies, pies, candy and the guilt associated with attempting to avoid these treats.
In reality, sugar is not the root of the problem. People with diabetes do not have a sugar problem; they have plenty of it. The issue with diabetes is the body’s ability to make or use the insulin required to regulate the sugar in the blood stream.
Hypertension is the amount of pressure in the blood vessels. When the insulin is not doing its job of controlling the amount of sugar in the blood, the blood actually can become thick like pancake syrup. Thicker blood requires more pressure to move it through the body. The mineral sodium, found in salt, determines the volume of the blood. Insulin also plays a part in the amount of sodium absorbed by the body.
In short, too much sodium and too much unused sugar in the blood makes for too much fluid. Someone’s legs, arms, belly and face can swell up until the skin feels like its going to burst. Imagine a balloon blown up to the point before it explodes. That’s what this young man looked like when I saw him again.
Controlling the amount of foods that are high in carbohydrates and when they are eaten, as well as limiting the amount of salt consumed can affect the blood sugar and the blood volume. I hope that this young man takes advantage of nutrition education and learns how to supply his body with a delicate balance of energy and vital minerals. I don’t want to remember him again in his present shape.
Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes educator and a registered, licensed dietitian. She supervises a diabetes self-management training program at Aultman-Orrville Hospital, Orrville. Contact her at email@example.com or 330–684-4776.