At the age of forty years, my mother developed type 2 diabetes. My mother was encouraged to control diabetes by changing her life style, especially the food she ate and to do regular exercises.
My mother was a hard working lady, who never let diabetes control her. She managed to live her life to the fullest and was able to help other people in need. She loved her work as a doctor and enjoyed socialising.
In December 2004, my mother visited me where I lived. I had not seen her for almost two years. I was shocked to see the state she was in; she looked so thin and frail. The night she arrived I kept a close eye on her, fearing that she might die while I slept. Thankfully she pulled through the night. Seeing the state she was, I encouraged her to visit a doctor, but she refused. She stated that she feared to be told the worst news. And within two weeks of her visit, there was some noticeable improvement in her physical health.
In April 2005, my mother returned home and continued working in her private clinic. She started to feel numbness in her toes, which she did not pay much attention to, only relieving it by massage. With time she developed a small ulcer on her toe. My father, who is also a doctor, started treating it with some kind of ointment. The ulcer became infected; they suspected that the blood sugar levels might be raised. When checked, the blood sugar levels were above the normal recommended range.
My mother was encouraged to take tablets, which she refused. She still believed that she could control diabetes by dieting as before. The wound was now getting bigger and more infected. I had to visit my local pharmacy, and I explained my mother’s situation to the pharmacist. I was advised that since the wound was infected it needed antibiotics. I phoned my father to explain what the pharmacist had told me, but he insisted that he was going to stabilise the blood sugar first and then treat the infection later. The blood sugar levels kept on rising and the wound became more infected. My father realised that he was unable to help at this stage, so she begged my mother to go to the hospital, but she refused.
In the morning of October 3, 2006, my mother collapsed and was rushed to hospital unconscious. On arrival the team of doctors tried their best to save her life. They started treating the raised blood sugar with insulin and the infected wound with intravenous antibiotics. She was put on an insulin sliding scale.
While on treatment, my mother’s toes became gangrenous. She was referred to a surgical team, who decided to amputate the affected toes. While preparing to carry out this procedure, my mother went into renal failure. The surgery had to be postponed, to allow mum to have the kidney dialysis. The dialysis had to be carried out in another hospital; this meant that my mother had to be transferred to that hospital. On her way to hospital, my mother’s blood pressure dropped drastically. Instead of proceeding with the dialysis, they had to first stabilise the blood pressure. The blood pressure stabilised and they proceeded with the dialysis. She was transferred back to the hospital where she had been.
On return the surgeons observed that the infection was spreading to the whole leg. The surgeons cleaned the infected area. The flesh from my mother’s thigh was cut and grafted on the wound. Unfortunately, the infected area rejected the skin graft and the infection spread.
My mother’s health was deteriorating very fast; she was in and out of consciousness. The doctors feared that she will develop blood poisoning. They had to act very fast to save mum’s life, so they asked my father to consent to having my mum’s leg amputated. This was the most difficult decision to make. Mum was the person who took pride in her appearance and had a liking of beautiful and fashionable shoes. Now, if the leg was amputated, how was she going to wear the shoes? When I was informed of this decision, I was in tears. I imagined my mother without a leg; it was frightening to think about. I felt as if I had already lost my mum. I thought of how active she used to be. How was she going to take this new life, she was about to begin? As hard as it was, a decision was to be reached fast, because time was running out. My mum’s leg was amputated below the knee.
When mum recovered from surgery, she realised that her leg was missing. She was very sad, angry and blamed my father for conspiring to have her leg amputated.
My aunt explained to her that, this was done to save her life. My mother told them that it was better if she had died, rather than having her leg amputated.
My mother never fully recovered from the loss of her leg. On discharge, arrangements were made for the physiotherapist to visit mum at home. This was to help her to start walking and live a normal life as before. My mother refused to participate in physiotherapy activities. A prosthesis leg was bought and mum was never interested in using it. She used a wheelchair to mobilise; needing twenty-four hour care. She became physically disabled.
She did not to care about what was happening around her. She never cared about what clothes she was putting on and refused food and medication. This surprised me so much, because I knew my mother to be an elegant woman, who took pride in her appearance. What was going on in her mind? I could notice that my mother was becoming depressed. I arranged a visit to a counsellor but she refused. My mum’s physical health deteriorated very fast, she became so frail and skinny. On the 4th of July, 2008, my mother passed away peacefully in the arms of her sister.
I wish this article will help other people not to experience what my mother went through. Also to help families to recognise the symptoms of diabetes early, this will help in having early interventions.