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Sweet survival in the face of diabetes

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Sweet survival in the face of diabetes
SURVIVOR: Kgosi Sekoko

‘Terror’s’ brave battle against a chronic disease

After two near death experiences at the hands of a chronic condition, Tonota royal, Pogiso ‘Terror’ Sekoko has risen from his deathbed to fight against diabetes.

Now aged 71, Sekoko’s will to live is as strong as it was in 1992, the year he was diagnosed with the dreaded disease.

“I was terrified. I had long heard about the disease and never thought I could be a victim,” he recalled in an exclusive interview with The Voice this week.

Prior to the diagnosis, Sekoko revealed he was regularly in and out of medical facilities and constantly suffered from fatigue, which he explained came as a shock to someone who was famous for his athleticism on the football pitch.

Having excelled as a Police Officer for 24 years (1967-1991), the sudden health problems came as an unexpected development to him and his family.

“I was one of the well known footballers and played for Blue Birds and other Police teams – that’s where the name ‘Terror’ came from, I was a menace on the pitch,” he said, his weathered features lighting up proudly at the memory.

“I however blame myself for the condition. After retiring from the Police I joined WesBank, and that is where I let myself go. I drank a lot, stopped exercising and piled on some weight,” he added, regret momentarily evident in his dark eyes.

Sekoko said the life of heavy drinking and unhealthy eating took a heavy toll on his well being.

His body seemed to suddenly give up on him; he barely had the energy to do normal tasks and was a frequent visitor to medical facilities until he received the dreaded news in February 1992.

“I was still in denial, even after the diagnosis. I continued with my old habits and told myself it was just another disease,” he said, shaking his head in annoyance at his younger self’s foolhardiness.

It was not until he reached his late 60s that Sekoko truly realised what he was up against.

“I was at the crossroads and had to choose between life and death,” he stated simply.

Despite this, it required intervention from a long-time friend after he was admitted at Nyangagbwe Hospital following a particularly vicious attack for Sekoko to reassess his lifestyle.

“It was by the grace of God that I made it. My sugar level was way down but thankfully I pulled through. After my release an old friend advised me to let go of my old habits and get back to exercising.”

Even then, and now dependent on a daily dose of insulin, Sekoko still took his friend’s advice lightly.

“I still believed I could survive without the daily insulin injection, until I found myself on a hospital bed after missing my injection. From that day onwards, I realised that I’ll have to administer an insulin injection everyday for the rest of my life!” he added.

Eating right is also of paramount importance, as Sekoko once found out.

“One evening I felt too lazy to prepare supper and slept on an empty stomach. When I woke up I was in a hospital bed, my sugar levels had dropped to dangerous levels in my sleep!” he said.

“This is a serious disease that if one is not careful they can die in their sleep. I recently lost a friend who died in his sleep,” continued Sekoko sombrely.

Now with the full appreciation of what he’s really up against, Sekoko added physical exercise to his daily routine.

“I wake up at 3:30 every morning and walk for 3km. I do this without fail everyday unless I have do deal with a funeral in the village.”

The Tonota royal is usually spotted stretching at the Choppies parking lot early in the morning before walking home to get ready for work.

“Exercising has kept me alive. Today my sugar level is normal. I do regular check-ups and I always get positive feedback from Dr Baghat,” he added with a hearty smile, before concluding gravely, “To everyone with diabetes, this is your life. Live it.”

WHAT IS DIABETES?

Diabetes mellitus (DM), commonly referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic disorders in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period.

If left untreated, diabetes can cause many complications. Serious long-term complications include: cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, foot ulcers, and damage to the eyes.

Diabetes is due to either the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin produced.

There are three main types of diabetes mellitus.

i. Type 1 DM results from the pancreas’s failure to produce enough insulin.This form was previously referred to as “insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus” (IDDM) or “juvenile diabetes”. The cause is unknown.

ii. Type 2 DM begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to respond to insulin properly.

As the disease progresses a lack of insulin may also develop.

This form was previously referred to as “non insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus” (NIDDM) or “adult-onset diabetes”.

The most common cause is excessive body weight and insufficient exercise.

iii. Gestational diabetes is the third main form, and occurs when pregnant women without a previous history of diabetes develop high blood sugar levels.

SYMPTOMS

Increased thirst, increased hunger (especially after eating), dry mouth, frequent urination or urine infections, unexplained weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry), fatigue (weak, tired feeling), blurred vision and headaches.

PREVENTION

Prevention and treatment involve maintaining a healthy diet, regular physical exercise, a normal body weight, and avoiding use of tobacco. Control of blood pressure and maintaining proper foot care are important for people with the disease