Facing Diabetes in a Native American World
by Judy Anderson
“Facing Diabetes in a Native American World” is the result of an experience of a Native American man with Diabetes and his struggles physically, financially, emotionally and socially. Out of his fight to take back his life, was born a deep desire to inform and educate other Native Americans before they have to overcome all the obstacles and challenges he did. And being Native American, there was also the Spiritual aspect of this debilitating disease to conquer.
When you have diabetes, you are in a battle. Diabetes is a valid enemy and if you don’t conqueror it, you will be conquered. It will take you captive by its destruction and just as someone in prison; your life will be controlled by the disease.
Diabetes begins its attack on the physical body by causing blurred vision which often leads to blindness in one or both eyes. According the American Diabetes Association, there are over 24,000 new cases of blindness reported every year and the statistics are growing rapidly.
Diabetes also causes loss of taste and when food is unappealing there is a lack of appetite that is followed with weight loss and lack of energy. Unfortunately, many people do not take these symptoms serious because they insist they feel fine.
Diabetes is the number one cause of liver damage outside of alcoholism. The liver damage makes it impossible to filter out toxins thus leading to kidney failure. This failure causes vomiting and dehydration resulting in an even more dramatic weight loss. As the toxins build up, every system in the body is affected. With kidney failure, dialysis is the only treatment and it is critical for life. Dialysis is expensive, painful, and very time consuming. It limits activities and locks the person into a life style that is no longer by choice.
Research has shown diabetics are at serious risk of gum disease because they are more susceptible to infections due to a decreased ability to fight bacteria. This greatly increases the possibility of losing their teeth.
The heart is under tremendous strain by diabetes and can result in hypertension or high blood pressure resulting in heart attacks and strokes. As blood vessels harden, the blood cannot circulate properly carrying the much needed oxygen to every part of the body. The lack of oxygen then damages the nerves producing anything from a tingling sensation to total loss of feeling in the extremities. The result is usually amputation of fingers and toes and even entire limbs. This condition is known as neuropathy.
While a person is learning to cope with all the incapacitating and often irreversible physical damages of the disease, they are then faced with the financial struggles of the disease. There are constant trips to the doctor that always requires the services of specialists. Often the needs of specialists are geographically out of the area of the patient.
When the diabetic has to travel out of town it usually requires overnight accommodations. There is an added expense for food, gas, and more. This of course creates wear and tear on vehicles including extra maintenance on all systems of any automobile.
Medicine, medical supplies and vitamins are also needed along with special foods and the cost of insurance to pay for the medical care. And usually with so much physical impairment, it is almost impossible for a diabetic to keep a job thus making finances an overwhelming situation.
All of this puts more stress on the individual that builds up tension creating a strain on their emotions and relationships. When money is short and needs are many, it can be hard on the entire family of the diabetic. This is not an individual’s disease; it involves and affects the entire family and requires cooperation of the complete family.
As problems accumulate, the psychological defenses and resistance are worn down creating a feeling of helplessness. When someone feels helpless in a situation they think it is hopeless and they want to give up thinking “What is the use in trying?” Then they try to isolate themselves and often stop communicating with their family and friends by going into a deep depression. Many diabetics just shut down completely.
But as in any warfare there are weapons to fight the enemy. First and foremost is knowledge of the disease and its very early symptoms. Second is seeking and getting medical help. Third and final is following the medical advice of physicians and making an absolute determination to never give up or quit.
Diabetes can easily become the captor and you are the captured. This is not an easy battle by far.
If a diabetic you must never surrender, instead get mad and take control and fight for your life; you have a right to live healthy.
Everyone, especially diabetics, must practice protecting themselves. Remember: You must participate in your protection.