2006.05.01: May 1, 2006: Headlines: COS - Niger: Medicine: Disease: Diabetes: The Third Age: Niger RPCV Ann Richards Ketcham remembers when diabetics used huge glass syringes they had to boil every day

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Medicine: January 23, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Medicine : 2006.05.01: May 1, 2006: Headlines: COS - Niger: Medicine: Disease: Diabetes: The Third Age: Niger RPCV Ann Richards Ketcham remembers when diabetics used huge glass syringes they had to boil every day

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Niger RPCV Ann Richards Ketcham remembers when diabetics used huge glass syringes they had to boil every day

Niger RPCV Ann Richards Ketcham remembers when diabetics used huge glass syringes they had to boil every day

"The good news is -- we thought this in the 1970s, but we didn't prove it scientifically until the '90s -- good control of the blood sugar on a daily basis can delay those complications," she said. "That is the really good news. If you educate yourself about the disease and take care of yourself properly, you can live a very productive and active life.

Niger RPCV Ann Richards Ketcham remembers when diabetics used huge glass syringes they had to boil every day

The Changing Face of Diabetes

By Jason Collington

Caption: Diabetes Needles, 1986. Photo: Diabetes Stories

Ann Richards Ketcham remembers when diabetics used huge glass syringes they had to boil every day. She remembers the large needles. She relives the image of patients experiencing the pain that came whenever those needles pierced the skin.

A lot has changed since 1976, when Ketcham was the first part-time staffer hired at the newly opened American Diabetes Association office in Tulsa, Okla.

So much has improved. Those needles don't hurt as much as they used to. Meters to test blood sugar are now the size of iPods, much smaller than when they filled small suitcases in the mid '70s.

More and more people are managing their disease.

"We unfortunately still see too many complications," Ketcham said recently, as she talked about her work over the past three decades. "In the mid '70s, only half of the people with the disease knew that they had diabetes. We have gotten that number down to a third. But there are still a lot of people in Tulsa, Okla., who have diabetes and don't know it."

When she tells the story of diabetes and Oklahoma, Ketcham, now the office's executive director, kept coming back to a common theme -- people still don't realize how serious the disease is. They know what it is -- a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. But they don't understand what it can cause.

Ketcham reeled off a series of facts from memory:

* Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults.
* It's the leading cause of nontraumatic amputations.
* It causes kidney failure, strokes and heart disease.
* It's something doctors can proclaim as a cause of death.
* Every 60 seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes in the United States.

"The good news is -- we thought this in the 1970s, but we didn't prove it scientifically until the '90s -- good control of the blood sugar on a daily basis can delay those complications," she said. "That is the really good news. If you educate yourself about the disease and take care of yourself properly, you can live a very productive and active life.

"But still, we lose a lot of people. It's hard to watch diabetes take them."

Diabetes isn't something that Ketcham grew up with. She doesn't know anyone in her family living with the disease. But after spending years in Niger in west Africa with the Peace Corps, she came back to her native Tulsa with service in mind.

She had helped the poorest of the poor. She wanted to come back home and help people who, like those she lived with in those small African villages, simply didn't know how they could improve their lives. Ketcham wanted to teach them.

Soon, she found the ADA. In 1976, the word epidemic started being applied to the word "diabetes." For 30 years, that label has never been peeled off. The ADA estimates that 20.8 million children and adults in the United States, about 7 percent of the population, have diabetes.

Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of diabetes of any state, due to its high American Indian population and high rates of obesity. About one in 15 U.S. residents has diabetes ...

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that of children born since 2000, one in three will develop diabetes before age 50.

That number increases to one in two for the Hispanic, American Indian and black populations. ...

"Until you know you have it, you won't take action," Ketcham said.

Without action come the complications. Ketcham has known people who have lost their feet, inch by inch, because they haven't controlled the disease.

"We are working to get the word out," she said. "We are going to see a lot of human damage if we don't. This has to be a priority."

Although diabetes is more prevalent than breast cancer and AIDS, it doesn't receive the same amount of funding for research.

"We don't think the funding needs to be decreased for any disease," she said. "We just want it to be equitable."

Ketcham and other ADA executive directors are looking at a debate raging in Washington, D.C. A proposed bill could wipe out laws in 46 states, including Oklahoma, that require insurance companies to offer coverage for medical supplies, equipment, services and education to help prevent or minimize health problems from diabetes.

"We hear from people who are uninsured," she said. "They can't buy supplies and pills. They are having to make a decision between buying groceries or buying insulin. That shouldn't be. We are the richest nation in the world."

Numbers Growing
Those kind of phone calls come every day. So do the ones from family members who say a loved one is in denial about his or her disease.

"There is denial because it doesn't hurt," she said. "I think back when I first started, and we would see a lot of denial. It's easy to convince yourself that nothing is wrong."

Ketcham said the ADA has made a lot of progress.

"But we still have a lot of work to do," she said.

She agrees with University of Oklahoma President David Boren, who has Type 2 diabetes, when he proposed building a center focused on treatment and research of diabetes.

When he announced his hope, he said, "Time is of the essence."

"He's right," she said. "We've come light years from 1976, but the numbers are increasing exponentially. Diabetes isn't going away."

Testing for Diabetes
To determine whether a human patient or a pet has pre-diabetes or diabetes, health care providers can conduct a fasting plasma glucose test or anoral glucose (FPG) tolerance test. Either test can be used to diagnose pre-diabetes or diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends the FPG because it is easier, faster and less expensive to perform.

To learn more about diabetes, go to www.diabetes.org.

Source: Tulsa World. Powered by Yellowbrix.





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Story Source: The Third Age

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Niger; Medicine; Disease; Diabetes

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