Doing their bit in Diabetes outreach during Diabetes Month

My mother Nonzwakazi Mgoduka lived with diabetes for more than thirty years. She was a nurse and managed the disease quite well with all the medication and insulin injections she had to take. Her lifestyle changed as she had to change her diet and her eating habits. Diabetes is a manageable disease especially when detected early.

During her years in retirement, she never ceased to assist people, and using her experience as a nurse, she used to offer her services to private doctors who needed her expertise. That is where she unfortunately contracted XDR TB which led to her untimely death, as people living with diabetes have a difficulty healing from TB.

Diabetes is a condition where a person has high blood sugar (glucose) level in the body. You develop diabetes when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin. Without insulin the body cannot get the energy it needs from the food. Normally, a gland called the pancreas makes insulin which carries the sugar in the blood into the cells. In diabetes, the pancreas fails to supply enough insulin, or the insulin doesn't work properly.

There are two major types of diabetes:

  • Type I diabetes, usually diagnosed in childhood, is a disease whereby the body's own immune system attacks and kills the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin, leaving a person's body without insulin, and unable to regulate its blood sugar levels.
  • Type II diabetes is a disease that results when the body's cells become resistant to insulin. In Type II diabetes, unlike in Type I, insulin is still produced by the body; it just isn't used appropriately.

The tests that we do are not designed to expressly inform the people which type of diabetes they have, but rather to alert them of the results of their blood sugar. When the blood sugar levels are high, we refer them to the local clinic.

In honour of my mother’s memory and her dedication to helping people and also to create awareness about the disease, we have as a family decided to host an annual event where we test diabetes on the local people. In addition, we also test blood pressure and HIV with the assistance of the local clinic. We have done this by inviting people from the local village of Emantlaneni, we place the notices at the local stores and whoever is willing then comes for the testing.

This annual event takes place in November every year as November is “Diabetes Awareness Month”. We started this event in 2016 November and we are currently on our third year running. The number of people tested has gradually increased and this year we tested about 50 people from our village. Some family members also travel from out of town to support the cause. We have also received support from the local clinic who come and educate people about this disease.

Our aim is to create an awareness of the reality of this disease, how it can be prevented and how it can be managed. And we hope in future to partner with any NGO that is aligned to our goals so that we can grow the awareness.