Vaughan Wood, who has Type 2 diabetes, tells us how he survived a heart attack and about his recovery process.
Vaughan Wood (55) lives in Port Elizabeth with his wife, Gail, and their son, Cameron.
Watching my mom suffer with Type 1
My mother passed on at the age of 67, in 2003. She was diagnosed at the age of 16 with Type 1 diabetes and used Humalog insulin.
She first lost a toe with gangrene, then a foot, the first leg, and then the second leg was also amputated.
As a young child growing up, I often came to her rescue with glucose tea when she had a hypo. Sometimes it was quite difficult as she would clench her teeth refusing help, saying that she was fine.
With her last amputation, she was too weak for general anaesthetic. She had some sort of epidural type of anaesthetic, and she said she could hear the instrument of the surgeon as it cut the bone of the leg.
I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, at the age of 52, after struggling for energy at the rear of a mountain bike race.
The doctor sent away the blood sample for an average test. Later, he prescribed metformin and Diaglucide, including a complimentary diet sheet to follow.
My wife and I run a small care home and approximately one quarter of our residents are on diabetic medication.
I considered my diet to be relatively conservative. However, I had been known to polish off more than one cake at one sitting. Comfort food was my thing.
I managed to control the obvious process, and sweet products, with my glucose levels being mostly in the correct ranges with the new medication.
I decided to enter the Karoo to Coast Mountain Bike Race, which I last rode in 2004.
One night, on the 17th April 2019, my breathing was a little strange. With the weather becoming colder in the evenings, I presumed it was the result of a virus.
As a precaution, I missed an evening ride, not realising that I would be rushing to hospital with a heart attack later that night.
Dizziness, shortness of breath, and a panic attack off the scale. I made the emergency room in survival mode, not even checking in, just making my way to the nearest bed.
I was handled very well. Although in my mind, I wondered why they were taking so long, and why the nurse was so insistent on drilling me on whether I had taken any Viagra.
Later I found out that Viagra does not mix well with the medication they were to give me, before placing me in cardiac care. LuckiIy, I responded well and the next morning I received two stents, one of which, even the cardiologist seemed excited about.
Heart medication was added to my list of medications, and all was going well until the panic attacks started. The first one, in my mind, was another heart attack. I would easily have passed a lie detector as this was so real.
The heart was like a tree, I was told, and the roots would have to feed it, till the affected part recovered. No strenuous activity for seven weeks until my treadmill test. At first, just walking from shop to shop was tiring enough.
After a couple of weeks, I started short walks, progressing a few hundred meters every time. Eight weeks after saw my first short cycle. I was given the go ahead to exercise after the cardio test which was hugely uplifting.
I was advised to smell the roses by someone who had a similar experience.
There are two other bits of advice that stick out for me. The first from our regular dietitian at the diabetic support group I attend, was to make one change at a time.
The second was from a Canadian doctor. He told me that our taste buds can change with time.
Not only am I making positive changes, but I am starting to enjoy making better choices with food.
I am not sure what has made diabetes the epidemic it is today. However, I know that we have more information at our disposal than my mom had in her day to deal with it, and live a good life.
I decided to walk a trail instead of riding this year. While walking I saw a Knysna Loerie in beautiful natural surroundings. That is me smelling the roses.
When I am ready, I will collect my number for the next ride, in my own time.
MEET OUR EDITOR
Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Feel free to email Laurelle on firstname.lastname@example.org