Sickeningly Sweet

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CHAPTER I

“GLOBAL  EPIDEMIC”

The Spread of Diabetes

 

                It is little more than an hour till game time when 30-year-old Roger Lee* finishes his lunch—two sandwiches and a glass of orange juice. Soon he is on his way to the stadium for his second big soccer game of the week.

                Joining his teammates, Roger begins warming up for the game, stretching, dribbling the ball, and discussing strategies with the coach.

                At game time, the announcer introduces the teams, and Roger takes his place as center-forward. The referee blows his whistle for the kickoff. Roger’s teammate kicks the ball to him. He passes it to the winger on the right side of the field. He starts running toward the goal, with a defender from the other team constantly shadowing him.

                And so the game goes on, with Roger running constantly as the ball moves up and down the field. He gets tackled; he is elbowed in the ribs; he collides with other players. It’s all part of the game, with defenders from the other team doing their best to keep this 6-foot 2-inch, 100-kilogram mass of energy from scoring another goal for his team.

                At halftime, Roger eats an orange while discussing strategies with the coach. The second half of the game goes much the same as the first, with Roger putting his heart and soul into helping his team to win.

                When the game is over, Roger showers and puts on his sweat suit. He chats with his friends for a few minutes, then walks to the car where he meets his pretty young wife, Kathleen. Picking up a packet of apple juice, he turns to Kathleen and wearily says, “You drive.”

                Usually Roger stops at the 7-Eleven for a quick snack then joins his teammates for pizza on the way home. But today he is just too tired. Normally Roger would chat with Kathleen or play his stereo when he got home. Today he doesn’t care about anything. He just wants to lie down and rest awhile.

                An hour and a half after the game has ended, Kathleen calls Roger to come for dinner. He doesn’t answer. She calls again, but still there is no reply. She goes to the bedroom and finds Roger lying with his eyes wide open, staring blankly into space. Kathleen calls him, she shakes his shoulder, but still he does not respond.  She rushes to the kitchen for some fruit juice, but then she cannot make him drink it.

                Panic strikes, and Kathleen quickly calls for an ambulance. She knows that Roger has diabetes. She fears that the man she loves and has only recently married will die if she does not act quickly. Later on, Kathleen will learn more about diabetes. She will learn how to give Roger an injection of glucagon when his blood sugar level drops too low. But for now, she has acted wisely.

                Roger Lee is just one of the estimated 50,000,000 or more people in the world who have the disease known as diabetes. Unfortunately, most of them do not even know that they have it.

                The World Health Organization estimates that, in the more developed countries, for every known diabetic there is at least one other diabetic who has not yet been diagnosed. In the developing countries however, the situation is far worse. For every person diagnosed with diabetes, there are probably three or four others who still do not know they have the disease.

                “A major global epidemic” is what the World Health Organization calls diabetes. In the United States, at least one person is diagnosed with diabetes every 60 seconds, and more than 14 million Americans have the disease! In some of the developing nations, diabetes may affect 30-40 percent of the population. What is frightening is that there seems to be little hope of this epidemic decreasing or going away.

                In fact, it appears that diabetes is on the rise. In Singapore, for example, a 1975 island-wide survey showed that 1.9 percent of the population had diabetes. By 1984, another survey showed that 4.7 percent of Singaporeans had the disease. The 1992 health survey showed another startling increase—“rising to dangerous heights,” as the government health department said. About 8.6 percent of Singapore’s adult population now have diabetes.

                Singapore’s 8.6 percent is one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world. In Taiwan and in the United States, 6 percent of the population have diabetes; in Malaysia, approximately 4-8 percent; in Thailand, 3.5 percent; in Korea and Australia, 3 percent; in Great Britain and China, 2 percent. In the Philippines, according to a 1992 national health survey of the Department of Health, in every 100,000 population, nearly 500 are diabetic.

                Diabetes might not be so bad if it were not for its potential complications. Around the world diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney disease, foot amputations, and other serious problems.

                What is diabetes? How does a person get it? Is it something you and I can “catch” from another person who has it? Can a person with diabetes ever have a normal life?

                People have all kinds of different ideas about diabetes. Some of those ideas are true, but many are false.

                Some people think that diabetes is a hopeless disease. They believe that no matter what a diabetic does or does not do, his life is totally and forever ruined. Other people have a completely opposite idea. They think that diabetes is a very simple matter—all the diabetic has to do is take some pills or insulin every day, avoid eating sweets, then go on with life as usual.

                What is the truth about diabetes? As we will see in later chapters, either of these beliefs can be true—if the diabetic and his family think it is true. But the real truth is probably somewhere in between for most people with diabetes. We’ll talk more about that later.

                For now, let’s take a look at what diabetes usually is.

                                                                     

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