Manipal Nurse Sunday Column: Why gamble with your health?

Today has not been a very good day at all, and I can blame no one but myself.

Like thousands of other Manipalites who have been diagnosed as diabetic, I have played the fool with my health, ignoring the diet when I felt like, not taking medication, not testing my blood sugar and going around telling others or at least giving the impression that I am an intelligent woman.

When I was asked the very simple question, Do you want to die? I realised that I really did not want to die. When asked if I wanted to see my grandchildren, I acknowledged that I certainly did. When asked why I was not taking my medication, I honestly looked for some reasonable answer to give the doctor, but I really could not find one at all. It really all boiled down to being just stupid, lazy and generally ignorant.

My colleague at the Hospital, suggested that she would give me the first shot of insulin under my tongue, and use the largest needle possible, so that I would experience the greatest pain. Her argument was that this would make sure that I stayed on the medication and not need to have insulin injected again. With tears in my eyes, and a huge smile on my face, I was able to talk her out of it, but her concern and very frank comments left me feeling more stupid, but committed to making the life changes necessary to control my diabetes.Control Diabetes

But it is a problem, and I am afraid that the time will come again when I will postpone going to collect my medication because I have to attend some meeting or other. Or that I will look at the medication and simply make the choice not to take that time. It does not make much sense, when it is put on paper does it, but this is the reality of thousands of people who are diagnosed with chronic diseases.  Intellectually we know what we should do, but somehow we seem unable to make the necessary changes in lifestyle and accept personal responsibility for our own lives.

Diabetes is one of the conditions which can easily be managed by medication, diet and exercise. Millions around the world and thousands in Barbados are living long worthwhile lives, managing their disease, and there are thousands, who continue to place extra pressure on the medical system and services by ignoring the advice, ignoring the diet, and exercise only their face muscles.

This leads to failure of the kidneys, amputation of limbs, and other complications associated with the disease while placing an extra burden on the society and their families. If there is accompanying high blood pressure, there is the possibility of the stroke. I do know.

It is like the men and women who continue to have unprotected sex with multiple partners. They know it all, they can tell you how the HIV virus is transmitted, they can tell you all about the risk behaviour, and in the next hour take part in unsafe sex.

Is it a wish to play Russian roulette with our lives, to dare fate, to claim some control, to be in charge, to be god.

The irony of all of this is that I have called myself a change agent in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  I have been out there working with others to find ways to help people alter their lifestyle to avoid the risks of exposure to HIV and AIDS.  What a laugh!

The strategy suggested is to use emotional intelligence as a tool to give leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  To develop new programmes which will respond to the emotional needs of the population and help each of us all to take greater responsibility for our actions and our lives. It is clear to me today, that such strategies must be employed by other agencies, other groups and other leaders. Failure to take medication is not an admission or a claim to a death wish. We need to probe further to understand more about the unwillingness of some to succumb to control even when it is in their interest.

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