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It Will Never Happen to Me: Thoughts of a Non-Compliant Diabetic

“My brother was a non-compliant diabetic”. These are the opening words of the YAHOO video that was done on my company RonWear Port-able Clothing.  I go onto say “I think he never thought that he could get as bad as he did”.  “He” was my brother Ron.  Ron had diabetes.

‘Non-Compliant Diabetic”–what is that?, people ask me.  Its a diabetic who doesn’t comply to the things they should do to improve their health or keep the diabetes at bay.  That’s the term I gave my brother Ron, namesake of RonWear Port-able Clothing.

It didn’t have to be that way.  He loved food.  He watched the cooking channel all the time.   He was a very young 61 year old.  He was handsome and had a quick wit about him.  He could get on your case, give you advice, was knowledgeable about everything, had a hint of sarcasm in his voice; he would mess around and sing opera like Pavarotti to the tune of “The Impossible Dream”.  He loved to goof around.  He loved to fix things–especially remodel houses, or fix cars. He cooked–weird concoctions–like putting ketchup in almost everything.   Or Salsa.  And when he would say “taste this”….you never knew what exactly you were getting.  He could tell a story about a great plate of food in a favorite restaurant like it was the million dollar lottery ticket.  He had his favorites:  chicken and noodles from KFC.   Spaghetti.  Lots of spaghetti.  Sometimes it had ketchup on it (cringe), sometimes salsa and Prego, or Ragu, or both, or all three!   He made a career out of eating.

Now, Ron was not heavy.  He kept a nice weight, and would exercise at a gym he signed up to.  He really couldn’t go regularly, due to leg ulcers and over all weakness at times, but he tried the best he could.   Ron’s downfall was his addiction to food.  Even in the thick of his last year, he was in 3 hospitals and 2 nursing homes with a list of ‘text-book’ symptoms of a diabetic:  floaters on the eyes (leading to 21 laser surgeries), heart attack (including a cardiac arrest episode which he miraculously survived without consequence to the surprise of the hospital staff), TIA’s (mini strokes), leg ulcers (where he received 22 hyperbolic oxygen treatments to heal his leg wounds), a tube in his gall bladder, fluid on the lungs (that had to be drained a couple times), a feeding tube in the end, and 2 months before he died, a leg amputation from above the knee.   He spent exactly one year, almost to the day, in either a hospital or nursing home.  His attitude was that he would beat this, but years of eating incorrectly (high sugar diet, adjusting his blood sugar with insulin or candy or orange juice when it bottomed out) led to Ron’s demise.

So many of us think, ‘that will never happen to me’.   It saddens me that what I believe, in watching Ron, over so many years was the fact that he actually was ‘uninformed’.  I truly believe that he didn’t understand the big picture of diabetes.  Somewhere, among the several hospitals he was in, as well as the nursing homes, Ron was not thoroughly educated about his disease.   I think his doctors took his ailments relating to his diabetes in a case-by-case basis, and everyone thought ‘the initial doctor’–the one who diagnosed him–explained the journey of a diabetic.  Not so.  Ron was diagnosed around his mid-50’s (early 1990’s) and was given a prescription to help regulate his blood sugar.  By the time the prescription was empty,  he felt better.  He never renewed the prescription, and thought he was ‘cured’.  Complications over the years set in, and pills turned into insulin shots, and then the other issues occurred.   He wanted to get better, he wanted to reverse these things, but once he understood what had happened to him, it was too late.  Education could have been a key factor in Ron’s journey.  

Diabetes is a new lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to be devastating.  My oldest brother Bill, is living proof that by watching your diet and keeping regular check ups, and taking your medicine regularly, you can live with diabetes without major complications.  Onset of diabetes at an older age is harder because you have maintained a lifestyle of eating a certain way.  Little changes in diet, and exercise (even little amounts of walking a day) help make the journey so much better. There is a lot of information available today on diabetes; not so much 20 years ago when my brother Ron was diagnosed.  

A site I recommend, of many, is Diabetic Living Online www.diabeticlivingonline.com .  There is a lot of information there from foods and recipes to checking your sugar, medication and weight loss. It can be a great help to get you started.  Little changes can make a difference in your life.  Begin now by being conscious about what you eat, and learn how you can get in a couple more steps into your daily routine for exercise.   You’ll be surprised how it can help in the long run.  Refuse to allow diabetes to take over your life.  Be a ‘compliant’ diabetic.

The YAHOO! RonWear Story:  http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/my-family-business/brother-dying-wish-turns-family-business-211203983.html