Emmanuel Rajah – My bestie

We hear why Emmanuel Rajah chose to volunteer at DSA and about his experience of sharing the role of caregiver to his younger brother, Joshua Mhlanga, who has Type 1 diabetes.


Emmanuel Rajah (30) lives in Parow Central, Cape Town. He plans to finish a Pharmacist Assistant Learnership Programme and would like to practice paramedicine. He is also a full-time international fashion model.

I call my younger brother, Joshua, my bestie. He will be turning 13 this year and is in Grade 7. When he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I had no knowledge of diabetes. It was a complete new chapter that we, my mother and I, had to adapt to. I was now not only his brother but my role changed to caregiver.

In the early days, I watched him cry when we administered his injections. It was in this time that I learnt to be strong for him and  would kindly remind him that checking his blood glucose levels is crucial, that if we check it, it will help to be well-managed and would help him to be and live happier just like a child without diabetes.

It was a difficult time for everyone in the family, as we all had to learn how to give the right dosage and learn more about what a balanced diet consists of.

Expressing my love for him

Being a caregiver to him was an opportunity of expressing my love for him and to provide him with full unconditional love that reassures him that he matters and that being different from other children is okay.

Some of the difficult times is when he is extremely energetic and at the same time frustrated. I try to teach him to practice patience. This is a time where he needs someone around that he trusts to calm him down and rejuvenate him.

The scary situations are when his glucose levels are extremely low and this shows in various body reactions. I have accepted that panicking is normal and stress levels starts to rise as we don’t want anything to happen. But thankfully through the years, I have learned to be calm and have faith.

We give him a couple of sweet treats or banana loaf with milk, and after 15 minutes we suddenly hear his loud voice and know he is okay. Sometimes when it’s too hot he falls asleep in the car; that is also a sign that his glucose is low.

Impact on my health

Joshua’s diagnosis has had a good impact on my own health. It was so much easier to follow a food plan. My love for food grew, and I focused on adopting a well-balanced diet. I learnt how to make different dishes tasty without meat and it helped me stay in shape.

Honestly, cooking became therapeutic for me and I healed from past traumas through cooking healthy meals for someone close to my heart.

DSA volunteer

Not only has my knowledge of diabetes grown due to my brother’s condition but I’m now assisting the diabetes community by volunteering at DSA Cape Town branch.

I assist wherever help is needed but the best description is office assistant. It’s an environment where teamwork is essential and I see it as an achievement that I can add to my service to humanity.

From being my bestie’s caregiver to becoming a caregiver to every member of DSA organisation, it takes a lot of courage, faith, consistency, and dedication to learn about diabetes and make an impact to the whole of South Africa where we have family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, and the list goes on, living with diabetes.

The National Manager of DSA, Margot Mc Cumisky, is a great mentor and one of the reasons why I love working at DSA. I’m proud to say I started the new Instagram account

We will also soon be releasing the 2023 T1 Youth warrior camp information. I will be a youth leader at the camp, and I work closely with Cain Tibbs and Robin Breedeveld in organising the camp.

Advice to caregivers

Diabetes is a condition that is just like any other sickness, it can be diagnosed without even expecting it. How you beat it, is based on a simple yet hard decision to make: what you eat. Everything you put in your mouth can either advance your longevity of life or rob you of the most precious time with your loved ones.

You can beat diabetes by carefully trying to practice and follow the suggested meal recipes available on diabetessa.org.za  and signing up for DSA’s monthly newsletters for more tips on how to beat diabetes. Drinking lots of water helps and constantly monitoring your glucose. It’s vital to understand how your body or your child’s body functions. The quicker you understand this, the better it becomes for monitoring and knowing the different symptoms they feel.

Healthy habits

For me, healthy habits means staying true to your journey. You are what you eat. It means exercise, being present in your day-to-day activities; meditate, be grateful, believe, and continue to allow yourself to experience the imagination of your creativity. Take it day by day. Be conscious of your thoughts and mind, and keep them directed on your goals.

You also must have a resilient mindset to stay disciplined to a routine of success. When you eat healthy, you feel healthy, when you talk healthy, you act healthy and your skin glows.

When you have created healthy habits within you, you spread healthy habits. Everything that is good is contagious; everyone around you will start following your habits and that creates an impact in the community.

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 editor@diabetesfocus.co.za

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 [email protected]


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Clint Baron – It is what it is

Four years into living with Type 2 diabetes, we hear how Clint Baron has adjusted to this diagnosis.


Clint Baron (56) lives in Johannesburg South, Gauteng with his wife. They have two adult children and two grandchildren.

Four years ago, in October 2019, Clint woke up in the morning with blurry vision, so he went to see his GP and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

Even though there is a history of diabetes in his family, with his grandmother and uncle having had it, his diagnosis still came as a shock to him. However, he says, “But there wasn’t much I could do but take the next steps to deal with it. It is what it is, so I had to accept it.”

The grandfather was prescribed vildagliptin, metformin, gliclazide and atorvastatin. He was surprised that the hospital plan that he is on covers chronic medication. “My medication was reassessed in March 2022 when my blood pressure went up but no other changes since then.”

Since being diagnosed, Clint has made small adjustments to his diet such as eating lots of green vegetables, changing to low-GI bread and he adds that he eats dinner a lot earlier than he used to.

He says that his family offers good support. “They all make sure I don’t eat chocolates and that includes my six-year-old grandson. Plus, my GP is awesome, and he too gives valuable support.”

Thankfully due to the nature of Clint’s work (he has an electrical fence business), he walks a lot with added physical activity. “I install electrical fences which requires me to be on and off the ladder, walking the length of the fences, etc.”

Healthy habits

When asked what healthy habits means to him, he responds by saying healthy breakfast, nibbles and dinner as fuelling the body in the correct way is important.

“I’m proud to say that most of the time my blood glucose levels are well-managed. However, stress is a big contributor to it fluctuating.I test once a day with a finger-prick test; but when my vision becomes blurry, I know I need to check it out,” Clint explains.

Thankfully, he hasn’t experienced any other diabetes complications other than needing glasses when using the computer.

He concludes by saying diabetes has taught him to make a change to his lifestyle, eat healthier, eat greener and make the most of life.

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 editor@diabetesfocus.co.za

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 [email protected]


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Caine Tibbs – Volunteering changes life

We hear how volunteering at Diabetes South Africa changed Caine Tibbs career pathway and how he is using his Type 1 condition to help others.


Caine Tibbs (42) lives in Lakeside, Cape Town.

Diagnosed at age four

Caine was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was four years old. “I was told that I got up often during the night to drink water as I was unusually thirsty and would urinate a lot. My mom kept telling me to stop drinking water at night. When this continued, it was thought that I had a bladder infection, and I was taken to a doctor and then was diagnosed with diabetes,” Caine explains.

“Since there is no history of diabetes in the immediate family, it was thought that it could have resulted from a virus which I had a few months prior.”

Treatment

From the time Caine was diagnosed, he has been taking insulin injections. “I think I started on two to three per day, and now over the past 10 to 20 years I use four injections per day. I recall initially taking regular insulin and insulin isophane human in my youth but over the past years I have been taking insulin glulisine (fast-acting) and insulin glargine (long-acting) which seem to be providing me with more consistent and stable glucose levels and in general more regulation regarding my glucose readings.”

The 42-year-old says that his good management consists of strictly keeping to routines regarding his testing, eating habits and exercise.

Change of eating habits

Caine says as a family, their way of eating changed once he was diagnosed. “My mom would not have any cakes, biscuits, sweets or cooldrinks in the house. We ate balanced meals, ensuring that the whole family was an example to me.”

“I have to admit that my condition has generally been quite stable, barring the occasional hypo due to environmental and emotional circumstances. Although there definitely has been a slight degradation regarding my body’s ability to use insulin effectively and with the general way in which the disease progresses, I have managed to remain relatively fit and healthy, also as a result of keeping to a controlled and balanced diet and what works for me individually.”

Volunteering changes life

“For a few years, I struggled to find permanent employment and went through a very depressive, self-loathing almost destructive state and was feeling like I had nothing to offer and that I wanted to give up.”

“I sat down one day and gathered my thoughts regarding my life experience, the work I had done so far, the challenges and problems I had faced as a result of having diabetes and how I had overcome them. I thought that if I, just an ordinary person, was dealing with all of this and could overcome the majority of obstacles thrown at me, then there must be other people experiencing the same, and perhaps in some way I could use my condition and experience to assist, support and uplift others,” Caine explains.

Caine applied to volunteer at Diabetes South Africa (DSA), Cape Town branch last year November and was afforded the opportunity. His volunteer duties involved assisting with processing membership applications, telephonic support and basic administration and operational duties.

Thankfully Caine’s ability and willingness to help the diabetes community was rewarded by him being offered a full-time job at DSA at the beginning of the year.

He goes on to explain that his duties are similar to when he was volunteering. “However, I have taken on more of a managerial role and helping to co-ordinate and run a project with the National Manager and one of our large sponsors, aQuellé with their Have a Heart for Diabetes campaign.”

“I have taken over as the Branch Manager of the Western Cape operation and this includes a more focussed approach to finding funding opportunities and increasing our membership numbers. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Structure and routine

The 42-year-old admits that he is a methodical and systematic person in that he likes structure and keeping to schedules. “I eat the same foods for breakfast and lunch each day. I only drink one cup of coffee in the morning and ensure I drink a litre of water every day and monitor my glucose level before each meal and generally try to follow the same routines in life.”

He adds, “I find that this helps with controlling my glucose levels. I believe that eating regularly, testing my glucose regularly and eating balanced and healthy low glycaemic meals can only better improve my control.”

When asked what his healthy habits are, Caine responds, “I don’t smoke or drink alcohol and ensure I drink more than 1 litre of good quality spring water every day, not tap water. I hardly ever eat junk food or highly processed foods; I believe that if you want your body to function at an optimal level, then you need to supply it with the best possible ingredients. I stay away from taking medication for every ache and ensure I don’t consume products containing added sugars; this is effectively an acid and a contaminate and your body needs to remain at a balanced pH level, or at least a slightly more alkaline state otherwise it degrades internally and allows for more disease to grow and increases the possibility of internal inflammation.”

“My grandfather always used to say, ‘You are what you eat’ which is a saying I try to live by. Thus, I eat low-GI food often and a balanced meal every night, consisting of protein in the form of meat (limiting red meat), starch in the form of potatoes, brown rice, or whole grain pasta with two different colour vegetables.”

Diabetes complications

Thankfully, Caine hasn’t experienced many diabetes complications other than occasional peripheral neuropathy in his arms and hands, and damaged blood vessels in his eyes which resulted in laser surgery on both eyes and a vitrectomy on his right eye.

He adds that he occasionally suffers with sleep issues. “This is mainly due to hypoglycaemia, but not often. Since I’ve been on a more stable night-time insulin and I have taken the time and trouble to test my glucose before I go to bed, in the interest of putting my mind at ease, I find that I’m able to sleep better and more soundly, and I don’t often wake up feeling concerned or being hypoglycaemic.”

“Stress also plays a big role in that if I have had a very stressful day or have over-exerted myself physically or even emotionally, it can lead to my glucose level falling quite drastically when I’m asleep at night, and then my body and my muscle’s feel completely drained, sore and weak the next day.”

He adds that when he is very active on days when there is high humidity or temperatures can also cause his glucose level to drop suddenly, so it is important that he doesn’t overexert himself in these conditions.

We wish Caine all the best in his new role at DSA and thank him for his desire to help the diabetes community.

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 editor@diabetesfocus.co.za

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 [email protected]


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