The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 29, 2012

Amputations from diabetes prod man into lifestyle adjustments

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

— Albert Henry was in his early 50s when he was diagnosed with diabetes.

Now, two decades and two leg amputations later, he takes better care of himself than he did early on.

“I didn’t do anything for it,” Henry said of the early years. “Then, I got a little blister on my right toe and it wouldn’t heal up. That’s how I lost my right leg.”

That was in 1994.

In 2002, a toenail came off his left foot and again, it would not heal.

“The toe started turning blue and the doctor thought he could save it, but the next toe started turning blue and they had to take it off,” Henry said.

Both amputations were below the knee. The retired machine-shop worker has prosthetic legs and continues an active life. Now that he takes his diabetes seriously, has made dietary adjustments and takes his prescriptions, he feels better.

He’s learned to eat smaller portions and lost 40 pounds.

“I don’t eat as much as I used to,” Henry said. “I eat until I’m full and quit.”

When his glucose level is out of whack, Henry knows it by the way he feels.

At one point, his glucose level fell too low, and being too low creates a different kind of problem. Ideally, glucose levels should be about 70 to 140.

“Once it dropped down to 23,” Henry said.

Cheryl Glover, diabetes coordinator for the Otoe-Missouria Special Diabetes Program, agreed, saying the way Henry feels is a good indicator of the state of his health.

“The first thing I tell people when they say they don’t feel well is, ‘Check your blood sugar,’” Glover said. “Your blood sugar will tell you if something is wrong.”

“I feel good every day,” Henry said.

Henry sees his physician every four months and gets his blood tests done. He also checks his glucose level each morning.

“Diabetes isn’t a cookie-cutter disease,” Glover said. “It’s not the same for everybody.”

Glover said 138 people are registered in the Otoe-Missouria diabetes program. Some participants she sees once a month at the informational meetings that are part of the offerings of the program. Others she sees only when they need something.

Besides the monthly meetings, Glover coordinates an after-school program aimed specifically at diabetes awareness and prevention.

“The earlier you do catch them, the sooner you can do something about it,” Glover said.

Normally, if program enrollees are well enough, they come to see her. The tribal health department goes to see the patients and if they are having diabetes-related problems, Glover is consulted.

Each summer, Glover takes youth to a summer camp where they learn about diabetes, and serves as the camp nurse. Last summer, 122 kids attended the camp.

As much as Glover knows about diabetes, some of her knowledge is personal.

“I have a personal history with diabetes, which helps me in working with kids and talking about the personal ups and downs,” Glover said.

One of the more important things Glover wants the youth to know is, family history of diabetes doesn’t mean they are helpless.

“I was raised to believe I’m going to get diabetes,” Glover said. “That’s what is in the Indian beliefs.”

“Prevention is possible,” she added.