Dear Grandkid, Don’t Get Diabetes (Part 3)

student drum circle

I’m guessing that you remember my friend who played hand drums. You know, the one who got neuropathy in his feet, from Type 1 diabetes. Please don’t have nightmares, because your mom will be mad enough to super-glue me to a chair or something. But guess what? My friend’s story got even worse.

Diabetes can mess up a person’s hands in about 20 different ways. I don’t want to gross you out, but some of those bad conditions end up with amputation, which I’m sure you know means the doctor has to cut off part of a finger, or even more, because it will just never get well. This happens with toes, too, and a lot of people have had their feet or legs amputated because of serious diabetes. They have to be careful not to hurt their fingers and toes. One little cut or blister can be a disaster. Anyway, here is the thing that made me feel so bad. My friend’s doctor told him, “No more playing drums for you.”

So what if he’s a terrific musician? No more playing drums, not even at home. Not even if he takes really good care of himself in every other way, and eats right, and does all the things a diabetic person is supposed to do. None of that makes any difference because it’s too late, and that really bites.

But let’s get back to Type 2 diabetes, the kind that’s maybe not quite so serious and is preventable. Mostly, it doesn’t have to happen. It’s too bad, but a lot of people let this illness into their life, when they could do a few things differently, and not ever have this problem.

Pretend you’re a person who didn’t prevent it, and now you’ve got Type 2 diabetes. It’s controllable. You sleep at regular times, and don’t stay up late. You eat right, and take your blood pressure all the time. Every day, you have to stick yourself to get blood for testing, and keep a good accurate record of the results. You might have to test your pee for something called ketones, and we won’t even get into that. You learn how to give yourself shots, and it’s just part of your routine. Every day.

Remember that movie we saw where the soldiers were always slogging through the rice paddies? Army regulations said that every day, they had to take a real good look at their feet, to see if any trouble was starting that would make them medically unfit. It’s the same with diabetes, you examine your feet every day. Smoking cigarettes is even worse for you than for people who don’t have diabetes, and so is drinking alcohol. Not that Grandma recommends either of those habits.

Just dealing with that level of diabetes is practically a full-time job, and a major pain. Usually, it means you don’t only have one doctor. You have to go see a whole “treatment team,” which can interfere with a lot of other things a person wants to do. It means having your eyes tested often, and being really well acquainted with your dentist, because people with diabetes get a lot of things wrong with their teeth and gums.

Also, it can mess up your immune system, so the smart move is to keep up with all the vaccinations and shots. You don’t want to catch tetanus, flu, pneumonia, or hepatitis B, because all of them are — you guessed it! — especially bad for diabetics.

Having diabetes is a lot of work, and not one bit of fun. It costs a lot of money, and worst of all, it makes you feel lousy. So don’t get it, okay? Eat vegetables, don’t eat junk. Play sports, move around a lot, and if you ever start to get a little chubby, pay attention. And be nice to your mom.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The musculoskeletal effects of diabetes mellitus,” NCBI, March 2006
Source: “Type 2 diabetes,” CNN, 01/25/12
Image by George Mason University Life (Office of Technology Integration).

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