Diabetes awareness

Apr 272006
Authors: Mary Swanson The Rocky Mountain Collegian

It’s easy to get caught up in life’s minor inconveniences.

The cold shower taken because of a roommate’s obnoxiously long one; the professor who walks in 10 minutes late and always keeps class longer; the cold lunch because there wasn’t a seat at the food court. With these little inconveniences, most people take for granted the big things.

Just ask Josiah Washburn, a sophomore criminology major, who was diagnosed with diabetes nine years ago. Diabetes is a disease where the body does not produce or properly process insulin. Every day, diabetics have to inject the missing insulin into their bodies, sometimes as many as eight times.

On Saturday, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) hopes to combat, among other things, discrimination against diabetes in the workforce. They are sponsoring a 5K walk/run at Fossil Creek Park to raise money, awareness and support for diabetes. The ADA hopes to raise $55,000, the majority of which will be given to community outreach programs.

This is good news for Washburn, who feels diabetes education is lacking. It is because of this that his greatest fear is having a diabetic emergency in public.

“The two reasons most people will black out are either diabetes or cardiac arrest, most people at least know some CPR, but no one knows what to do about diabetics,” he said.

Washburn admits to not wearing the medical tags that identify him as a diabetic because he is afraid someone will try to force-feed him sugar in the event he becomes unconscious, which could have fatal results.

It is because of his diabetes that Washburn is choosing to pursue an education in criminology. As a child he dreamed of joining the military. However, he said it is “hard to maintain a normal lifestyle” due to, at times, the intensity of his diabetes. He opted to pursue a career in law enforcement instead.

“Ultimately, I want to become a member of SWAT, but I am also aware the police force may see more of a liability than an asset,” Washburn said.

Diabetes was recently declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control. Every year, diabetes kills more people than breast cancer and AIDS combined.

“Every 21 seconds someone is diagnosed with diabetes,” said Christine Palandri, the associate director of the ADA in Denver. The ADA predicts that 7 percent, or 20.8 million people in the United States, have diabetes.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes results from the body’s complete failure to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s insulin production is inadequate, or it resists its own insulin production. Insulin is an enzyme that helps convert sugar, starch or other carbohydrates into energy.

If the body is deprived of insulin, “it can’t utilize its own glucose, and the body’s glucose level goes up. This forces the body to get energy elsewhere, making a person constantly hungry and thirsty, all while losing weight rapidly,” said Russell Risma, a physician at Hartshorn Health Services.

Two major risks for people with diabetes are hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the body’s blood glucose or blood sugar is too low, and may cause ketoacidosis, or diabetic coma. Likewise, hyperglycemia is a condition in which the body’s blood sugar is too high, and causes severe dehydration. Diabetics are also at a higher risk for heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage and blindness.

For Washburn, this means injecting himself every morning and evening with a consistent, controlled amount of insulin. After every meal, his blood glucose level must be checked, and fast-acting insulin needs to be administered depending on what he ate and what his blood sugar is. Periodically, his blood glucose level should be checked as well, but Washburn admits to fudging a bit.

“I can normally feel when my blood sugar is too high or low, so a lot of times I only check my levels three times a day,” he said.

Despite what may be seen as limitations to the life of your typical 20-year-old, Washburn keeps a positive attitude.

“I’m not going to go to the bathroom or anything to take my insulin,” he said. “I’m not going to change my life just because I have diabetes.”

Even though his injections may garner stares, Washburn keeps his sense of humor.

“I’ve told people I’m on drugs or taking muscle-enhancing steroids,” he said. “I used to mess with some teachers back in high school.”

Mary Swanson can be reached at regional@collegian.com


Diabetes Walk


10 a.m.

Fossil Creek Park

Walking in the event is free, but there is a $20 registration fee for runners. Check-in begins at 9 a.m. Pre-registration can be done at www.diabetes.org or by calling 1-800-676-4065. Outback Steakhouse is providing lunch for all runners, walkers and volunteers for a $10 donation.

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