So, I had my heart attack, went into hospital and the cardiac mechanics there did a great job at a grease and oil change. It’s difficult to describe the euphoria one feels when the medicos relieve that pain from your chest. As I have already said, it made the choices I am now making in my life obvious. A second chance… Who wouldn’t want that? But there was more…
It was Tuesday morning. I was lying in the hospital bed in the Coronary Care Unit feeling happy and relived. I had already started doing a stock-take on things and decided that I needed to do more. I was desperately looking forward to seeing Mrs Dave and Mr J. It was around 8 am and a gaggle of doctors came into my room and started talking to each other as if I wasn’t there. It was clear that the alpha male in the middle of the pack was being updated on my situation. At the end of the discussion he grabbed the clipboard and said to me “So do you know what has happened?”. I said “Sure, I had a heart attack”. He said “Correct, and we put a stent in to relieve the pain and stop the damage to the heart. There are some more other blockages and we’ll need to work out what we are going to do with them over the next few days. But you are out of the woods. Oh, and we’ve diagnosed that you have Type 2 diabetes too. See you tomorrow”. With that, they left.
Hang on a minute! I was ready for all the heart stuff, but what was that about diabetes?
My nurse [the magnificent Lisa] came over to me and said “as part of the blood tests we run as a matter of course they have identified that you have type 2 diabetes. In fact, it is probably what has caused most of your problem in the first place.”
Now I am not going to go into a detailed description of the following 3 days and my education, from many sources, nurses, doctors, diabetes educators, and the internet, into what diabetes is and means, but let me say this.
It’s not the heart disease I should be concerned about, it’s the diabetes…
Let me say that again, type 2 diabetes will have a much longer lasting and profound effect on my life than a heart attack or open heart surgery ever could [barring death, of course].
280 odd people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in Australia every day. Every day! Once you have it you are a diabetic for life, and there is no cure. It is an epidemic. One that has far reaching implications, and I believe we, as a society basically sweep it under the rug. Mainly, I think, because it is not as sexy as cancer or heart disease. Also because we don’t really understand the outcomes from getting it.
The worst bit is, that like heart disease, it is almost completely preventable. Healthy eating and moderate exercise is all you need to do to eradicate the risk factors.
Now let’s just have a quick look at diabetes. It is a disease of the body that prevents it from processing the sugar in our bloodstream properly. It’s a little more complex than just not being able to produce enough insulin, but that is basically it. And, it has a list of complications that are truly horrifying:
- Heart Disease
- Limb Loss
- Feeling[sensation] Loss
- Renal [kidney] failure
- Deterioration of skin
- Deterioration of the feet
- Permanent numbness
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sexual Problems
Not that I am suffering form all of these yet. But they loom on the horizon. And in addition, at least for the forseeable future, in my case:
- 4 insulin injections a day
- 1 tablet per day
- 6 finger prick blood tests per day
- Low GI balanced diet
- Reduced alcohol intake
Stupidly, I wouldn’t even need to worry about any of this if I had eaten less Double Quarter Pounders and scoffed less packets of Tim Tims and walked around the block every second day. I’m simplifying for effect, but you get the idea, right?
I had already given up smoking[three years ago], reduced my alcohol intake to almost zero, improved my diet and increased my activity. But is wasn’t enough.
Interestingly, once you have had this kind of enormous shock most things seem simple. In reality they are too.
Removing or reducing processed sugar from your diet just requires a bit of willpower. At home we have been using recipes out of a great magazine called “Diabetic Living“. The dietitians at the hospital told me that if we all[and I mean you too] ate a “diabetic diet” it would function perfectly as a healthy balanced diet perfect for anyone. Diabetes or not.
And for all of you blokes out there. Don’t be stupid like I was. You are not bulletproof. You cannot just brush past these things. You owe it to yourself and your family to take this seriously.
But enough of the preaching. This is supposed to be about my journey, not yours.
With the help of insulin injections and a healthy diet I have got my Blood Glucose Levels under control. In fact, there is a chance that, in time, I will be able to control my diabetes with diet alone. Here’s to hoping.
The temptations are there and they would be easy to take… But I just keep looking back at my motivations[Mrs Dave, Mr J and #2] and they are just not an option.
It was Mr J’s birthday the other day and Mrs Dave made a beautiful cake for him. Now previously, that would mean a sugar gorging fest for me, but I managed to limit myself to just one small piece. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it.
In just two weeks I already feel better, and happier, am calmer, and I have already dropped 5.3 kilos. The road is long and there are many hurdles ahead. But I will prevail.
The impact these things have on your own life and the lives of others are just not worth the pleasure derived from all of the junk I have consumed to get here. They are just too precious to risk.
Some references for some more info.
This blog is going to go a bit all over the place. I have a lot on my plate at the moment to improve things. I’m going to write about it all. Bear with me. It will all stitch together eventually.
The one thing that remains constant is the support I am receiving from everyone around me. It is amazing. Thank you all. It is this that also inspires me to be a success at this and to be an example, to my kids, my family and whoever else will listen.