November is National Diabetes Month, a month designated for educating the public about the disease. Diabetes is a very serious disease for the millions of people living with it. Diabetes does not only affect every aspect of the body but also places great psychological stress on those suffering from it. That is why this year the theme for National Diabetes Month is “Diabetes is a Family Affair”. The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) is using this month to encourage family members of diabetics, and members of their community to provide support for them.
I have no diabetics in my immediate family but in my four years of being a nurse I have encountered enough diabetics to know, first hand, how severe this disease can be. In nursing school there was a married couple in my class. The husband was the owner of a textile company and his wife was a stay at home mom. Though they had sufficient income coming in they had both decided to take up nursing as a career. The couple was inspired to pursue careers in nursing because of their youngest son. As a baby he had been diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. Both parents were very dedicated to their son’s care. They took turns monitoring his blood sugar, and diet; and when he became severely ill they were both by his side to nurse him back to health.
There are three types of diabetes. Type I diabetes was formerly known as Juvenile onset Diabetes due to the fact that these individuals are usually diagnosed when they are children or young adults. The pancreas is the endocrine organ which produces insulin, a hormone which converts sugar in the blood to energy. Type I diabetics may not produce insulin at all, or may only produce a small amount. Type II diabetes is known as insulin resistant diabetes. In these individuals the body is able to make insulin but can no longer use it properly, causing increased levels of sugar in the blood. Gestational diabetics, women who develop diabetes when they are pregnant, are the third class of diabetics.
In the past Type I diabetics had short life expectancies, but today due to research and advances in patient care these individuals can enjoy long lives. Type I diabetics, like other diabetics, may experience complications related to their disease. Diabetes can affect all parts of the body. Complications of the disease range from problems with vision to blindness or difficulty in feeling pain and temperature change in the feet, and poor circulation in extremities to amputation. They may develop kidney failure or go into comas caused by decrease in blood sugar. Sometimes they do not awaken from these comas. For parents of diabetic children just imagining their children with these complications can cause great fear.
My former classmates were pretty aware of all that their son could encounter. They educated themselves about the disease. They were realistic but optimistic. They worked vigilantly, taking management of their son’s care seriously; yet always remembering that they needed to provide their child with a healthy childhood. They worked together to support their son, while providing support to each other.
By Earnestine Jones