I have diabetes and I am a theatre scrub nurse

Nokusa Matlhabe (50) is a divorcee. She lives in Lakeside, Vereeniging, Gauteng with her 18-year-old son. She has Type 2 diabetes.

Diagnosed by gynaecologist

At the age of 32, Nokusa was initially diagnosed by her gynaecologist after giving birth to her second child. Her second daughter was considered a large baby, weighing 4,5kg. This fact, known as macrosomia, made Nokusa’s gynae think she had diabetes.

Being in complete denial, Nokusa ignored what her gynae told her and focused on her new born. Sadly, her second child died three months later due to a heart problem. The brave mother grieved and dealt with the trauma of losing a child, but was overjoyed when she fell pregnant with her third child shortly afterwards. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy, who is currently doing his matric year.

Life carried on and because the mother was asymptomatic she never once gave her ‘so-called diagnosis’ a second thought. However, eleven years later in 2010, the mother paid the price for this choice. She collapsed at home due to diabetic ketoacidosis. Her eldest daughter, who was 20 years old at that time, rushed her to hospital. Nokusa was admitted into high care. She went partially blind and suffered all the complications of uncontrolled diabetes. The doctor at the hospital introduced her to sliding scale insulin treatment. It was time for Nokusa to finally admit and accept that she had Type 2 diabetes.

It was a slow journey to recovery but with the support of her children and her positive attitude she succeeded in her acceptance and self-care. In no time, she was back living her life as normal – only this time taking medication and changing her diet for health purposes.


The theatre scrub nurse is currently on insulin and metformin, and has her diabetes under good control. She will inject before she leaves for work to avoid experiencing a low while driving to work. She tries to eat before her theatre list starts, and loves her Future Life products.

She does, however, find it difficult to maintain her eating times at work (she needs to eats at specific times due to being insulin dependent). This is because she is scrubbed up and can’t find a colleague to relieve her, and can’t leave her duties unattended.

When this happens, she will ask a colleague to fetch her Future Life Smart Drink or Future Life Cereal from her bag. She will have a quick sip or mouthful in order to keep her going. She also keeps sweets or bananas in her bag in case of these situations.


Even though, her diabetes in under control, the stress of either delaying theatre lists or being late for work due to her check-up days is an issue she struggles with. “Working in the health sector, one would expect colleagues to understand such conditions but it’s not like that. Instead, they think you’re faking it,” Nokusa explains.

Ignoring such behaviour and comments has allowed Nokusa to persevere through her career. “I know I am not faking it and know the importance of eating every three hours, so I just ignore them. Plus, the doctors, like the surgeons, and anesthetists etc. who I work with are incredible. They are understanding and so supportive.”

Hospital employee wellness programmes

Even though the nurse works at a hospital, she says she has never been invited or seen ‘diabetes awareness programmes’ at work. “If there was, I would love to go and get more support from my workplace,” Nokusa says.


Nokusa honestly admits she doesn’t exercise as she should. “I have to walk a lot at work and always choose the stairs rather than taking the lift. But, even though, I could walk to the shop from my house, I choose to drive in my car. We get lazy.”

MEET OUR EDITOR - Laurelle Williams

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]