A LEGLESS OPINION
When I started writing these articles for the Townsville Bulletin I called them “Pull up a Stump” because I’d lost my leg to diabetes. My position has changed now. I am well and truly stumped, no longer playing in the ashes; I’ve lost both legs. I’m now doubled stumped.
I believe that I have a message for those with diabetes, do nothing and lose your legs.
On a serious note, diabetes is a gradual disease if it isn’t controlled from the beginning.
It is easy to say that but the practicalities are very hard.
Some of our responses are culturally imbedded, such as the food we have grown up with and love.
It is terrible going to parties where everyone knows you are a diabetic, but they still offer you food that doesn’t comply with your diabetic condition.
People show they love you by offering you as much food as you can eat. You can’t knock it back because it is a cultural thing.
The challenge for me was to change myself so that I would not be called “a non- compliant patient” by the medical staff I was seeing.
This was a negative label which did nothing for my motivation. But I had to start listening to them. This was serious business! My body was breaking down because I was not controlling the disease.
Dr Ramesh Velu, the nursing team, the hyperbaric unit, the rehabilitation team and the orthopaedic technicians ( the plaster boys) strenuously and patiently worked with me trying to help save the leg.
Dr Velu and the very patient Dr Sangla from the Diabetes Clinic were for healing rather than amputating.
But in the end, after seven years Dr Velu said to me, “Albert, what do you want me to do for you?” I said “Amputation?” He nodded his head. It says a lot that he asked me the question.
Sometimes there is negative press about things happening in hospitals but this overlooks the cultural change happening there as well.
We need to give credit to the great people who have a passion for healing. They deal with weeping ulcers and stench ( not pleasant) and try to help you. But in the end, I had to have my legs amputated and the poison cut out.
Nevertheless, I feel better than I have for years. The freedom of movement I have now is extraordinary.
The condition of my ulcerated legs, which had moved into my bones, has gone. I am now able to continue with my passions among which is working in the community with the Townsville Intercultural Centre preparing for the Townsville Cultural Fest ( August 9- 13).
I am the ambassador for the Papua New Guinea community, which means negotiating for the community to participate in the event and bring people from PNG and around Australia to it.
None of this would be possible without the extraordinary staff at the hospital starting with those in the Discharge Lounge.
They are very friendly and look after you. The front reception is the same.
The yellow shirts, the volunteers, are tireless workers who direct you to the place you want to go, offer you wheel chair support, etc. They are the frontline in public relations.
They make you feel comfortable and relieve the anxiety you feel.
Unfortunately, they are sometimes subjected to abuse from anxious patients; abuse they do not deserve. They deserve our thanks for a difficult job well done.
I hope my experience with diabetes has a message for those suffering this condition. The solution to diabetes lies within yourself. We must take serious responsibility to deal with diabetes.
It is something we can control by listening to the dieticians and others. Initially I didn’t listen because their advice about the food to eat didn’t fit with my culture and tastes. Sometimes we have to admit our culture is wrong. This is true whether you are from Europe or the Pacific countries.
My years of experience at the Townsville Hospital have been very good, although I haven’t always admitted that. I am better now than when I started.
I’ve lost of few stone ( and I’ve been legless before) but if ever you want to lose a leg, this is the place to go.