Struggle with diabetes – A journalist’s story
Abrantie could only sub a few stories for the day and went home, with so much discomfort.
As usual, the former Sub-Editor at the New Times Corporation dashed to a pharmacy for medication, but the boil turned into an unhealing sore and started swelling.
Before long, the sore developed into a wound, with so much pain as the toe rots away slowly though he visited the Korle-bu Teaching Hospital for medical assistance.
On Abrantie’s second visit to the hospital, he was diagnosed with two conditions – a gangrene – an untreated bacterial infection. The other condition was type two diabetes – a chronic disorder in which one’s body is unable to properly use insulin, resulting in high blood glucose levels, which can lead to blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation.
“This was ten days after my first visit. My condition was classified as an emergency, which necessitated an amputation of my leg in 30 minutes. Further delays could have made me paralysed,” he told the Ghana News Agency in clutches.
“Everything happened so fast,” he added, forcing a dry smile.
Despite his resilience, the retired journalist says the sudden change in his health affected him psychologically, emotionally and physically.
“It was a big blow to me, because I have always been a healthy person, I hardly fell ill and I hardly go to the hospital, I never imagined myself losing my leg.”
Until February 2014, Abrantie says he had a lifelong “love affair’ with physical inactivity, and poor eating habit due to his work as a journalist.
He sits at one place editing stories for long hours and hardly eats or sleeps well.
“I was married to a mixture of drinks [cocktails] and high intake of alcoholic beverages daily, with late night and poor eating habits, but I never taught I could have diabetes, I did not see the signs,” he says.
The story of Abrantie mirrors the lifestyle of many journalists, including you.
Many are consumed by the desire to meet deadlines and the citizens’ need for information to the detriment of their health.
Dr Betty Bankah, a Family Physician and Head of Adolescent Care Clinic at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital (RIDGE), says one can be with symptoms of diabetes for years yet feel healthy.
Once the complications of diabetes start to take hold, it can affect every area of your health because excessive sugar in your blood damages blood vessels and nerves throughout your body.
She describes diabetes as a condition, which occurs when one’s pancreas does not function as it should.
“Whenever we eat carbohydrate, it turns into sugar in our blood, the pancreas which is next to the stomach releases insulin which works to allow the sugar in the blood to move into the cells as energy,” she explains.
For those who have diabetes, she says the insulin is either ineffective or not enough, so the sugar from the carbohydrate stays in the blood instead of the cells and causes high sugar levels.
The 2021 Diabetes Atlas of the International Diabetes Federation’s (IDF) shows that globally, about 537 million adults aged 20-79 years are living with diabetes.
The IDF projects that the total number of people living with diabetes will surge to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045.
Globally, although there is an agreed target to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity by 2025, the number of cases and the prevalence of diabetes have steadily increased over the past few decades causing financial stress to individuals and families.
Dr Bankah, the family physician with over 20 years’ experience in providing healthcare, says high intake of sugar or salt is not the main cause of diabetes.
“Diabetes is not how much sugar or salt one consumes. It is triggered by obesity due to sedentary lifestyles and increased inactivity,” she says.
She urges the public especially journalists to eat lighter in the evening.
“People should be done eating their evening meals latest by 7 pm, or three hours before bed, it is important that we move around after eating in the evening.
“Eating a big meal at 6 pm and sitting in front of a television until 10pm to sleep is not the best.”
She says sugar in the blood poisons everywhere it goes, it can damage the veins, eyes, liver, kidney, brain, skin and nerves, it can make parts of the body numb and you can’t feel pain when you are hurt.
“We need to make sure that communities have places for exercise, we need to increase physical activity and ensure that all schools have Physical Education (PE) as part of their curriculum, it’s important that we are all physically active to prevent diabetes and other NCDs, because we cannot afford cure,” the Family Physician says.
Dr Bankah says type two diabetes can be reversed with healthy eating habits and regular exercise, a positive attitude to care and family support.
Fortunately, Abrantie appears to be ‘righting the wrong’ with better eating habit, exercising and receiving good family support.
Though in clutches, he looks the best of himself, occasionally, infecting this reporter with his ‘toothpaste smile’.
To reduce the high incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases, like diabetes, everyone, especially journalists need to have a routine health checkup at least once a year, exercise regularly and eat healthy meals on time.
“My people should watch what they are eating. I am just lucky to survive with one leg. Tell them to eat more vegetables, fiber rich foods, get enough sleep and reduce stress,” Abrantie advises as he sips some natural fruit juice.
By Linda Naa Deide Aryeetey