Hi, my name is Ishmael and now 26 years of age and living with diabetes. It all started about 9 years ago, I was 17 years old and I noticed I was losing so much weight even though I was eating a lot. I was also urinating so much and drinking water a lot. My mother decided to take me to the hospital for a medical checkup. The doctor told me “your glucose level is 33mmol/l, you have diabetes”. I was shocked and did not understand, but then I thought if my blood has a lot of sugar I would have to take in a lot of salt to balance out so that the diabetes will go away. My dad however, had a fair idea of it and felt sad for me. As according to him all those who had diabetes ends up blind or have their limbs amputated. My mother was scared and did not know what to do about my illness and she was always sad.
“Diabetes is a terrible disease” is what everyone around me was saying, so I told no one I had diabetes so no one would think of me as a “sickler”. I did not like to go for parties and drink ups as I was afraid people would be curious as to why I wasn’t drinking or eating what was being served. So initially was drinking the minerals (soft drinks) so that my friends would not ask me any questions and also that I would fit in with my friends, but I was advised by my doctor to stop.
Things have not always been good living with diabetes, there were bad times when there was no money for my insulin and syringes, when I had to miss school due to admission at the hospital when my blood sugar went high also there were instances when I had hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and water poured on me just to wake me up instead of been given something sweet to drink or eat, friends insulting me in that state of low blood sugar because they thought that I was drunk.
I had to stop school when I finished Junior High School, as my parents could not afford to see me through my secondary school education, so I started to sell mobile phone credits at the market. However due to the group that I have joined, I have been able to acquire some funds to restart school and I am more than happy because I realize that education would open many avenues for me to help other people.
The doctors and nurses I have met over the last 9 years of having diabetes have been very supportive in my care. But initially I was attending clinics with the adults and I felt very uncomfortable because some of the comments which came from them were very discouraging. I also did not have enough time to talk to the doctors about my problems as there was very little privacy during the clinic.
Having joined the support group Diabetes Youth Care, my attendance to the clinic has increased and I do not feel uncomfortable as I attend the clinic with other young people of my age group. We are able to discuss our problems freely with the health personnel and have enough time to learn about diabetes.
Having started school again, I am looking forward to working as a social worker. I am eager to help other people living with chronic diseases especially diabetes. I am also eager to become a peer educator in diabetes so that I can teach other people about diabetes. I also educate all my friends about diabetes now so that they now know what to do if I should have a low blood sugar. I am not at all shy about living with diabetes or worried about what people say about diabetes, I know how to take good care of myself to enjoy a healthy life. The future is bright for us living with diabetes in Ghana, thanks to Diabetes Youth Care and all the other support groups!