Living 40 years with Type 1 Diabetes
Hello, my name is Nick. I am originally from Chicago and now living in Naples, FL.
I was diagnosed with T1 diabetes at 15 years old. After absorbing the initial shock of that news, I went through all the orientation and training sessions available at that time (’65). From there, I had to learn how to balance normal activities while managing the disease. In those days, the only way to check blood sugar levels was with urine test strips. Since urine sits in the bladder for hours, these readings were inaccurate.
I was in my 30’s when blood glucose monitors became available, but the 15 years of diabetes had already taken a toll on my organs and circulatory system. In 1983 I experienced a bleed in my eyes, known as Diabetic Retinopathy. This required several laser treatments, which negatively affected my eyesight.
Years later, my diabetic doctor referred me to a nephrologist when my kidneys showed reduced function. The nephrologist began monitoring my kidney function, and when I was in my early 50’s, he initiated a conversation about getting on a kidney transplant list. It was his professional opinion that a new kidney would soon be damaged by my diabetes. He strongly encouraged me to seek a kidney and pancreas transplant, as the new pancreas would stop the destruction of the transplanted kidney.
I began the medical screening process, completed the requirements for transplantation, and was eventually accepted to be on the transplant list at two hospitals. I had the double-organ transplant surgery, at 55 yrs. old and with the to the healthy pancreas, I no longer had diabetes! I’m still amazed at all that transpired. Wow…God is good!
The good news was no more diabetes. The bad news was that after 40 years of the disease, a lot of damage to my body had already been done. Poorly controlled diabetes will wreak havoc on the arteries. I had developed peripheral artery disease (PAD) which caused decreased circulation in my extremities. This led to a diabetic ulcer on the bottom of my foot. In 2012, I had to have a LBK (left below knee) amputation. In many ways, the transplant was a piece of cake compared to the amputation.
This is a condensed description of many medical issues I’ve had due to complications of diabetes. I am currently a volunteer for Miracle Limbs Courage in Motion, a local non-profit organization in FL, which helps provide prosthetics for individuals who cannot afford them. I also work with the Amputee Coalition as a peer visitor, sharing my knowledge and experiences. I encourage everyone to educate themselves about the serious secondary conditions that stem from diabetes.
The work that HADC is doing is so very important, because diabetes medications and equipment is VERY expensive. For those without health insurance, it is challenging to afford insulin, much less the testing equipment that is essential for maintaining good blood sugar control and preventing the devastating complications associated with diabetes. I want to thank HADC for allowing me to share my story, and I want to congratulate them for all the good work they are doing in our local communities.
From a former diabetic, still living a good life.