Savouring their sweet victory over diabetes

8 patients, who have lived with diabetes for 50 years and more, honoured

Sprightly at 71 years, Ravi Bhaskaran turned up rather nattily for the award function. His achievement? He has completed 55 years of living with diabetes, having been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 17.

Put on insulin right from the day of diagnosis and a diet of hope and encouragement, he strictly adhered to his prescribed regimen, and managed to avoid complications. That makes him a role model for persons living with diabetes, and a worthy recipient of the Victory over Diabetes Award at Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialties Centre (DMDSC).

“I have done everything that I have wanted to do, even played cricket for college, university, and in the leagues. In fact, for a long while, none of my colleagues even knew I was diabetic. I guess I owe thanks to my first doctor, who instilled confidence in me. At a stage when I had no clue about diabetes, he told me taking insulin was no different from brushing my teeth every day, it was something I had to do naturally,” Mr. Bhaskaran said.

Seven other patients, all of whom had lived with diabetes for 50 years and more, were honoured on the occasion by V. Shanta, chairperson, Cancer Institute, Adyar, and the Prince of Arcot, Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali.

Enviable record

R. Sitaraman, an 88-year-old retired school principal from Cuddalore, has a record of 55 years; P.S. Sridhar, 76, has lived with diabetes for 53 years; and Meera Bai Venkataswamy, a 60-year-old from Bengaluru, has diabetes as her companion for 52 years. The 55-year-old SRV Prasanna has lived all his life, but three years, with diabetes, having been diagnosed with Type 1 at three.

M. Arunachalam is an 87-year-old who holds the golden jubilee record, along with K. Krishnan Nair, 82, currently residing in Kerala. The oldest of the achievers S.V. Chitti Babu, former vice-chancellor, Madurai Kamaraj University and Annamalai University, is 90, having spent 50 of those years with diabetes. “Back in the days when I was diagnosed with diabetes, awareness was poor and treatment was not as advanced as it is now,” Prof. Chitti Babu said.

Now information about diabetes is more prevalent and medical care had progressed by leaps and bounds. Still, the key is to remember that diabetes tests one’s capacity for self control, he added.

Dr. Shanta said with control of communicable diseases was paralleled by an increase in non-communicable diseases. Life expectancy was high, and with increasing age, there was a higher risk of getting lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness, stroke and geriatric conditions. “We have to plan to educate people, and conduct research into prevention. In such cases, prevention is the cure.”

She suggested that anyone with a family history of diabetes must be tested regularly, and provided advice on altering lifestyle to keep the condition at bay.

Preventing diabetes by modifying lifestyle was simple, and eminently possible, as all it required was diet restrictions and regular exercise.

Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali charged that medical institutions and hospitals had begun to overcharge patients, to the point of extortion. A number of institutions had commercialised fields like education and medicine and developed the practice of charging beneficiaries over and above what is owed for the service. “It is criminal to do so, and this should stop, in both these fields.”

The Nawab also advised that having a control over what one eats is the best way to deal with diabetes.

V. Mohan, chairman, DMVDSC, said during the initial years of diagnosing Type 1diabetes, doctors would give a child only six months to live. Things had changed dramatically since then, with medical treatment and better knowledge of the subject facilitating people to live a longer life. He said 27 persons who had been treated at the centre had completed 50 years of diabetes, but some of them had passed away.

The intention of honouring people is to tell other people living with diabetes that a life sans complications is, indeed, possible, he added.