|This is a special section on Diabetes, and is dedicated to a long-time friend of mine that endured years of suffering and finally died from complications from such a condition. The purpose of this section is not to "scare" anyone, but raise awareness about Diabetes. The material here is based on very sad experiences, including seeing the effects of out-of-control diabetes first hand. Diabetes is basically the inability of the body to control a simple sugar (glucose) in the body and / or keep it in check. If blood sugar gets to high, damage can be done to the body. These subjects will be explained in great detail in this section, as well as many informative topics including how to manage yourself should you be diagnosed with this condition. There is also a dedicated section to a best-friend who I lost to complications from Diabetes.|
DIABETES MELLITUS is a condition denoted by excessive GLUCOSE (a simple sugar required for metabolism in the body). The high blood sugar (glucose) condition is called HYPER-GLYCEMIA. There are two main types of diabetes, TYPE 1 and TYPE 2. Type 1 is where the pancreas, a digestive organ located near the base of the stomach, cannot produce adequate INSULIN, which is a hormone that allows glucose (sugar) in the body to be regulated. Type 2 is when the body develops a resistance against insulin, producing the similar effects of hyper-glycemia (excessive glucose). Since this insulin balance has been disrupted, blood sugar can also go too low as well, as with HYPO-GLYCEMIA. People with diabetes can have Type 1 or Type 2, or even a combination of the two. Pregnant women also can develop a milder form of Type 2 diabetes which usually resolves after delivery. Elderly people can also develop a mild form of type 1 diabetes as their pancreas produces less insulin and body metabolism slows (more excess glucose). The name "Diabetes" is derived from the Greeks and means "Pass Through" or "Siphon". This was so because a major symptom of diabetes is excessive urination, or "passing through" of fluid intake. There is no cure for diabetes at the present time, however, the condition can be managed and treated by medication and diet.
ANYONE can develop diabetes, and there are also higher instances of the condition based on racial group, age, hereditary traits, diet, and even lifestyle. As for racial groups, the general major races with instances of diabetes in order from highest to lowest are Blacks (African), Hispanic, Asian, Indian (Native American), and Caucasian (White). Lifestyle, especially diet, also plays a major role, and is influenced strongly by culture (for example, Hispanics generally consume meats and higher fat foods). High fat intake causes an increase in body fat, and body fat is metabolized into glucose (sugar), so diet is another major influencing factor, especially for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes can arise in a person at any age, with juvenile-onset being the most dangerous form of the condition, since it may not be noticed until damage to the body has already been done (such as to the kidneys). Older people also can develop diabetes since their metabolism slows down and insulin production is limited. The condition also is highly hereditable and can indeed "run in the family". Having diabetic parents also gives a good chance the children will develop the condition.
A person who has developed diabetes may or may not face a life of medical challenges. The condition is not curable at the present time, but there are many treatments and medicines for MANAGING it. It is most commonly diagnosed by fasting blood tests and "glucose tolerance" tests, which can help detect the condition at an early stage. These tests are strongly suggested for anyone at risk or hereditarily predisposed for developing diabetes. The diabetes in itself is not actually a "disease" per se, but a condition that can cause other "diseases" if it is not properly managed or brought under control. Only your doctor can determine what is best for you after you have been diagnosed with diabetes. Most of the time, weight loss, exercise, and diet are paramount. Sometimes, these changes can get the diabetes under control, sometimes supplemental insulin in the form of pills (oral) can help. In more severe cases, insulin must be injected one or more times a day, and can be done either by a small syringe or even automatically, as with an insulin pump. Living with diabetes requires medical care, prevention, a good diet, and most of all, a positive attitude.
Below are some of the symptoms experienced by a diabetic. Remember that symptoms are often out of proportion with how long a person has had diabetes, especially type 1.
The symptoms above often provide a good clue to healthcare providers that a person may be diabetic. Farther testing often will determine the severity of the condition. If the diabetes is not brought under control, more severe complications begin to develop as shown below.
MANY of the complications shown above are either a medical emergency and / or a life threatening condition. The most common and most serious in the list is heart attack / stroke and kidney failure. Diabetes also causes poor circulation and damage to the nerves (neuropathy), especially in the legs, feet, and even other extremities, such as the hands. The damaged nerves often cause severe pain and numbness, even though no physical damage is visible. Renal (kidney) failure is another complication that requires dialysis therapy in late stages, and has its own set of painful (and possibly deadly) symptoms. The goal of MANAGING diabetes is to prevent it from getting to the point where such complications arouse.
You have been told you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. So, now what? Will I get all these horrible things listed above? Will I die? The answer is NOT IF IT IS MANAGED PROPERLY. I am not a doctor, so you MUST speak to your healthcare professional about which is the best way you can manage your condition. You might have found you have diabetes an early stage and never even knew you had it, that's the best time to know. If you found out about it after symptoms and / or complications developed, you still can do something about it and prevent anything from getting worse. The key thing is MANAGEMENT and STICKING TO IT. It may be hard, as some lifestyles will change, but it's all about YOU. The table below shows some things to consider being a diabetic, including medical care suggestions.
How many steps to manage your diabetes in the table above depends on two things, how your diabetes is to be managed, and how YOU WANT to manage it. Many of the steps here are easily managed, as simple as seeing a doctor every few months. I known many people who were diabetic, exercised and lost weight, and their blood sugar remained in check WITHOUT any insulin therapy! Diabetes, as with ANY other medical condition, becomes more obvious with age, so managing it from the start is best. The listing above is by no way a medically-certified table, so make sure you speak with your healthcare provider when considering diabetes management.
Did you know that the people listed above are living with diabetes? You just might find some of your favorite celebrities, whether it be an athlete, singer, actor, or actress, alive and living well with diabetes!
The table above shows a short listing (only a handful were chosen from the top of my head) of some famous celebrities who are living with (and hopefully managing) their diabetes. Some were sports stars, some won medals, others made their way to the "top", including the top of the World. Diabetes NEVER stopped them, and it certainly should never stop you - Think about it.
Above - Two pictures of Jacinto, taken roughly 12 years apart. The left picture, he is in near perfect health. To the right, taken about 8 months before his death, shows a forced smile and "painful" look as he tried as hard as he can to enjoy his last days with his mother (right of Jacinto) and favorite pet dog "Tito".
Diabetes is a serious condition, especially if it is either not managed properly and / or gets out of control. Unfortunately, this can and does happen, and diabetes is one of the "top killers" of the world, especially in under-developed countries, and is right up there in ranking next to cancer and AIDS.
I recently lost a very good and long-time friend to complications from diabetes, and this entire section was set up as a dedication to him and to provide awareness for anyone who wants to know about diabetes. My friend's name was Jacinto (Jose) Chong, born in Panama on January 7, 1963 from a Spanish mother, Sonia, and Chinese father. Simply, his family called him "Gito", as his friends and people he worked with called him "Jose". He grew up and went to school in Panama, battling political problems there while trying to get ahead, plus dealing with his Chinese fathers death at only age 45. In 1989, he came to Miami, Florida and pleaded political asylum in the USA in the wake of the Manuel Noriega Scandal. He left behind his family, including 3 brothers and mother, and came to the states with his wife, Wilma and not much else. It was time for a new start in the "land of opportunity" many Hispanics in Central America call "El Norte" (north).
Jacinto wound up with far less than what was expected once removed from his family and living in the United States. In addition to the political / civil conflicts all around Central America during the late 1980's still ripe in his mind, he went through a rather sad separation with his then-to-be ex-wife, Wilma. He was a Central-American Mestizo "transplant" with very little to hope for. But he kept his head high, and in a few years was speaking fluent English, and put his technical IT skills to good use. He was a computer programmer, just like me, but his area of expertise was the IBM (old RPG type systems). He worked at several places in Miami, then on a cruise line, then in North Carolina, where he met his long-time friend, Ed Pavon, who had two kids. He was to remain in touch with this friend until about 2 years before his death. In 1992 he was back in Miami, and he was struck by the core of hurricane Andrew. He lost everything, including his apartment, his car, and had several feet of storm surge flooding and even saw fish in his bathroom!
After the hurricane, Jacinto had many financial challenges, and just then he learned he was diabetic. But he kept the spirits high, as he always did, and moved on. By 1993 he was back on his feet, and his diabetes was mild at that point. He was 31 years old at the time. In March of 1994, March 27 to be exact, I mingled with friends at a Miami social event (I was still in college) and met Jacinto. We kept in touch and became best friends, such good friends, that he was like a brother to me. He was a person to talk to and a person for advice as well. He never said "I can't" or "I won't" ... He always tried to make the best of life, especially the holidays, cherished family, and tried to make everyone around him happy. Over the next 13 years, we were roommates, sharing two apartments and eventually being a renting-resident at my single family home I bought in Miramar, Florida in 1999. Friends like this are very rare, indeed.
Jacinto's health was never a "happy" concept. His Chinese father, who passed away when he was only 45, had severe diabetes (type 1). His mother, Sonia, is also mildly diabetic (type 2). Jacinto had a combination of the types 1 and 2, and was insulin dependant, taking up to 4 subcutaneous shots of insulin (30 units each) a day. Through it all, from 1994 on, he kept a low key on his health. At work and around his friends, Jacinto was a polite, warm, and just made everyone laugh. He continued moving up in life, learning more IT skills, getting trained and promoted, living in a nice place, and having a nice vehicle. In 1998 he became a "US Citizen" instead of a "resident alien". He adopted a dog from a friend he knew back in 1999 at the Humane Society and we both called him "Tito" and had a beautiful salt-water fish tank. Just like he wanted as he left Panama, the "American Dream" was alive and well in all it's glory for him.
From 1996 to about 1998, Jacinto had to be hospitalized a few times for appendicitis with abdominal infection and two bouts of pancreatitis. These are the primary complications from diabetes. From 1998 through 1999 he lived with the problems and managed the diabetes the best he can. Unfortunately, he could not quit smoking (and he tried very hard) and he had difficulty controlling his diet. Jacinto was a 230 pound, 5'8" frame with a football-player type body. In August 1999, Jacinto had a small stroke. He was hospitalized for a week and a half, and this left his voice changed and a slight "droop" in his smile. Like always, he pushed ahead with life, or at least tried to.
Above - A "touching moment". While cleaning out Jacinto's personal belongings, two cigarettes and a lighter are found "hidden" between two platters that were found stuffed away in a corner. These were hidden for years, as he tried to quit smoking, failed to do so, and hid his smokes in embarrassment of family / friends finding out (that he never quit) despite his declining health.
The good thing about these issues were that his mother, Sonia, came to the United States from Panama to help him out, especially if I was busy. He had me, and he had his mother, who was a blessing as well. Things began changing in late 1999 to early 2000. He suffered from an episode of Belle's Palsy in November 1999. On March 10, 2000, during a seminar (for his job) in California, the un-thinkable happened. A heart attack. I took a week off work, and his job was nice enough to pay me to fly out there and see him, as his mom was not in town at the time, and I was his emergency contact. He was only 37, but had to have QUINTUPLE-Bypass surgery. Recovery was at least 3-4 months, and was slow and problematic, including numerous subsequent hospital visits, one for a severe infection in his leg, where the vein for the bypass(es) was removed. In June 2000 I moved into my first home in Miramar, FL and Jacinto still remained my friend and roommate, and his mother, Sonia, was more than welcome to stay to care for her son as he got better.
The heart attack was a turning point, and Jacinto's health was never to be the same again. The diabetes was out of control, and after many tries, he could not quit smoking and correct his diet. He continued, however, to try to make the best of life and go on, and not keep dwelling on the "Why Me?" philosophy. He continued to work, he continued to enjoy life and traveling (he was also a travel companion for me as well), and tried his best to keep anything "bad" low-key. By February 2004, he learned that he was in end-stage renal (kidney) failure. He had to go on daily dialysis treatments, where toxins are removed from the body artificially, to emulate the function of the kidneys. His first step was peritoneal dialysis, where a catheter fills the peritoneal cavity with dialysis fluid (dextrose water), and osmosis removes the toxins, which are subsequently drained. This is called an exchange, and often takes place at night, when one's asleep, and it totally portable. This type of exchange is convenient for kidney patients living busy lives.
The year of 2004 brought as many "bad" health problems as the hurricane season that year did with "bad" weather. The last "perfect" day for Jacinto was October 13, 2004. After that, he was in the hospital again with cellulitis on his lower legs. In November 2004, more health problems arouse, including a strange vomiting that no doctor or anyone could figure out. In December 2004, diarrhea accompanied this, and his right leg began to "lag" behind. He visited the hospital about 3 times, and no one could find out what was causing this, as a GI exam was negative. His mother, Sonia, and Niece, Sumey were staying over during this time. Christmas 2004 was the last good Christmas, and Jacinto was using his cane as he had some of the last dances with company and friends at the Christmas party. By February 2005, he was in and out of the hospital again, this time with excruciating pain and unable to move his legs. The final verdict after a battery of MRI's and nerve conduction tests was that severe nerve damage was done by the diabetes. Even worse, this type of neuropathy is irreversible, and Jacinto implicitly learned he was now condemned to a life of severe pain management in a wheelchair.
During the remainder of 2005, and after a 2 month hospital stay, Jacinto returned home in April of 2005. He was wheelchair bound, always in severe pain, and devastated. His doctor at the time did not know what to do, and nearly gave up on Jacinto's crashing health! Jacinto's morale suffered, and he became emotional, sometimes to extremes. Imagine something like this happening to you? How would you handle the "Why Me?" feelings? After March of 2005 and all the way to July 2007, my work in IT took me out of south Florida to Lakeland, Florida, St Louis, Missouri, and Dayton, Ohio. Jacinto's mother remained at my house (his niece went back to Panama) and his stuff was moved from the upstairs bedroom to the downstairs spare, which he continued to rent and pay utilities on. I tried to visit every two weeks to make sure he had groceries, errands, and other things while I was working out of town. From April 2005 all the way to May of 2006, Jacinto was in four different hospitals, a nursing home, had four surgeries, including amputation of part of his foot because of gangrene, and had pain so severe he had to be on morphine.
In addition to all this, the peritoneal dialysis exchanges were no longer effective, so he was switched to hemodialysis. He developed congestive heart failure and fluid in his lungs had to be drained frequently. In December 2005 and January 2006, he nearly passed away twice, but hung on, and told me about how the "light" looked with his Chinese father at the end of it to me when I visited him the next day. It was not until May 2006 that he was released, and with more problems he went into the hospital(s) a year earlier. He lost his job, his vehicle had to be given up, which was a Cadillac CTS. During late 2006 to 2007, Jacinto mustered up enough strength to barely enjoy his last Christmas and 44th birthday with his mother and myself. His struggling continued, with no improvements, and his 5' 8" frame now supported a muscle-wasted 155 pound pale-skinned and scarred man. I returned from Ohio in mid July 2007 as I finally landed a new local job in Fort Lauderdale. Two weeks later, on August 1, 2007, God finally decided that Jacinto suffered way too much, and took him to a "better place".
Jacinto passed away in the Westside Regional Medical center in Plantation, Florida at 9:30 AM on Wednesday, August 1, 2007. He went to his 3-times a week hemodialysis session, after I saw him one last time, and helped him out of bed that same morning, and had low-blood pressure and tachardia (fast heart rate) prompting him to be transported to the ER of the aforementioned hospital. During the remainder of that week, I helped his mother with funeral arrangements, gave her some cash, and helped her be strong. This was not easy for me at all either, and my family, Jacinto's family, and some friends are both shocked and devastated by this. Jacinto's body was shipped to Panama and his mother, Sonia, returned with him for a formal family funeral. I continued to handle any paperwork and belongings and the "who gets what" kind of stuff. Jacinto was a good man, and a friend I will never forget anytime soon. May he rest in peace (sigh).
Sometimes the passing of a friend of loved one is easy to forget, especially when the deceased had all his or her "ducks in a row" before their time has come. Jacinto, unfortunately, had no plans on what had happened to him. He had no idea how bad he actually was getting and once his health deteriorated to the point of certain morbitity, he continued to deny the imminent and grim end result. In simple terms, and in full "denial", he had no will made out, little life insurance, a large collection of pending financial expenses, and a set of un-true freinds. After his passing, and with much frustration and intervention on my behalf, he basically left me, and his family, with a large burden.
First of all, his best friends (or so I thought), never seemed to care about his passing. Two of his best friends, Ed Pavon and Luis, that him and I knew for many years, vanished. One did so before, and the other after his death. Any attempts to contact the latter was only returned with a blunt email as if he expected it. After his death I was also faced with a major cleanup and rennovation of my home, with his grieving mother fleeing back to Panama, taking some items (that were NOT her's) back. One of his "aquaintances", Fay, helped my mom and I take care of some of the burden cleaning house, but after that, I never heard from her again. It took about 3-4 months to get my home in sellable condition, and it was placed on the market in December 2007, and sold, at a low-point, in May 2008.
As explained earlier, I helped his mother handle funeral arrangements just before she left Florida in a hurry. At first, a cremation was planned, and I took care of the finances for it, since his mom did not have much money. After this, Jacinto's family changed plans, and had his body shipped to Panama when his mother returned. I was not invited, despite being friends with him since 1994. Even worse, his mother was hostile towards me, almost as if I had something to do with his death. Meanwhile, attempting to cancel MY finances on the (originally) planned cremation / funeral presented a whole new dilemna of phone-tag and eventually threatening them with the police. In the fall of 2007, a new "person" I never even met became a daily conversation and planning person - His ex-wife, Wilma.
Jose never finalized the divorce with his ex-wife, and remained separated eversince. Since (legally) her and Jacinto are still "married", she is entitled to his estate and half of his finances. This came as a fantastic suprise for me, and I had to deal with her, her attorney, and even Jacinto's mother, Sonia. A legal battle ensued between Sonia and Wilma, as Sonia was much more desparate after losing her son and returning to a sub-standard life in Panama. In the end, by late May 2008, Jacinto's finances all went to Wilma's probate, and his mother, Sonia, got nothing - Even after taking care of Jacinto when he was ailing and I was out of town for nearly 3 years. This part was not fair, but that happens when you don't plan for the "unexpected".
After Jacinto passed away, and his mother out of the "visible" picture, I was the one who was the main contact for him here in the states. I spent weeks sifting through paperwork and separating items of value that were mine, his moms, or his. Without finding anything close to a will or life insurance, my search only turned up unpaid bills and such. Excessive usage of the phone and email at work, mainly dealing with funeral, bills, and such (that cannot be done after 5 PM / "bankers hours") ... Landed me in the unemployment line after I was caught, and fired. I used the spare time to get more house work done, before taking another out-of-state job in Chicago until the spring of 2008.
Jacinto did not handle credit-card debt very well to begin with, and abused this up until his last day. His bills (mostly his credit card) were anywhere from $35,000 and up. I continued to work with Wilma, her lawyer, and my real-estate until the house was cleared and sold in May of 2008. I packaged up Sonia's unclaimed belongings and sent it to Wilma (as she told me she will forward it to Sonia). Three months later, the box was returned, at my doubled-expense, and unopened. It's not mine, so I left the box at the post-office as "unclaimed". The majority of any shared / un-claimed furniture (that him and I bought) and extra clothes / appliances was either "garage-sold" and / or donated to charity. I was scared that it's "bad" luck to KEEP such items.
Ever since his passing and after moving from my house to a smaller place in lieu of a new job in Miami, I never heard a single "hello" or "merry Christmas" from any of Jacinto's friends. I tried contacting them a few times, but either the email would "bounce" back as undeliverable, or simply never get answered. A call to Fay, the "friend" of Jacinto who was there to help my mom and I clean for one day, was successful (at contacting her) after Christmas of 2008, but emotions on how she ignored me and his family caused me to literally tell her off as a "non-friend". I suspect she expected some "life insurance" or something "in it" for her. The other friend of his, who took care of "Tito" (Jacinto's dog) also disappeared the same way.
I was so sad because I at least wanted to see the dog again, I really was attached to that animal too. Also, Jacinto and I did not get along very well as friends, especially when he was about 1-2 years into his 3-year "terminal" sickness. I was often forced on an "unable-to-say NO" spot to run errands for him, many times pre-empting far more important personal / business tasks I had. Often this was extremely frustrating (have you ever went to the store, they don't have something, then you have to go to five more stores to find it)? Then, between Jacinto's rage (on "why is this happening to me") and side-effects from his medication, Sonia and I both became the brunt of his "venting" - sometimes violent (throwing / breaking things), which is hard NOT to take personally.
As rough as this was for friends / family of Jacinto (including his mom and I), one cannot be upset with a person dying nothing less than a slow and depraving death. Some friends, regardless of longevity, quite blatently just quit and "vanish" when placed in this situation - Like shutting off a television just before a horrific horror-movie scene. Some others, like me, put up with it - But it's tough. The worst thing is LEAVING your loved ones with something much worse that plain grief and morning, such as financial expenses and business tasks - Which are the last things anyone who lost someone wants to deal with! No one wants to "think" about these things, but it won't hurt to have a will, insurance, and such should life take an unexpected end.
It took about 6 months to take care of my part of my friend's assets and mistakes, and go on without him and his "after effects". This is quite good considering the rapid sale of the house (in a bad housing market) and that I had the time and money to do so. Some things haunt me to this day, for example, seeing an old picture / video tape of Jacinto and his friends at Disneyworld back in 1997. Seeing Jacinto running and laughing - Now that's tough (sigh). Intertwining these good (and sad that it's gone) memories with anger and frustration over the way he handled his failed habits and rotten attitude during his demise also hurts - Alot.
I always was a person who HATED being in a hospital. I know it's "just a building" - But I LOST both my grandparents in a "hospital" - And I only see such a building as a place to die / LOSE things. I also feel that MOST doctors are there to take your money and merely "practice" how to make people better. With this in mind, and Jacinto as my best friend, and forcing myself to be "strong" - I had a "front row seat"! Seeing a "course" like this puts the same mentality as those who survived disasters: Life is precious, birthdays are more beautiful, and simply going to the bathroom makes you say "Thank God because my kidneys are working today!" ... This is why I live life to it's fullest, unlike Jacinto, who did not do that until it was too late. Life is "seizing the moment", not "waiting to die".
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