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Diabetes Complications

Personal Stories

"I Plead with People…Go Get Checked for Diabetes!"

Carol Dixon

Carol Dixon (right), diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1999, now helps inform others of the need to be checked for the disease.
Photo:Carol Dixon

In 1999, at 40 years of age, Carol Dixon was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. From fall of the year before to June, she had gone from showing no signs of diabetes to having full-blown type 2 diabetes.

"I had no symptoms at all," she says. "I plead with people to go get checked for diabetes annually. Otherwise, you won't know. And it's not unusual for people to go five or six years and not have any symptoms."

In June 1999, she discovered two things. Dixon learned that she had a family history of diabetes with both her parents and their parents. She also learned that she didn't know a thing about diabetes—what to eat, what not to eat, how to read food labels, how to shop, what exercise to do. So, she went to work educating herself about this disease.

Today, her diabetes is well controlled because she took the time to find out answers to all her questions. And Dixon, who started volunteering with the Indianapolis, Indiana, chapter of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is now Senior Manager of Mission Delivery for the organization.

As she speaks to various audiences, she is quick to let them know that diabetes can be successfully managed. But, first, you have to know you've got it.

"I Didn't Know…"

Ron Minor and wife Kathy

Ron Minor's diabetes ultimately led to kidney failure and the need for a kidney transplant. His wife, Kathy, had a kidney that was a match, and she donated one of her kidneys to him.
Photo:Ron Minor

Retired videographer Ron Minor remembers when he found out he had developed type 2 diabetes. "I was 32 years old, traveling to New York City in a van," he says. "Every 15 to 20 minutes I had to stop and urinate; I couldn't seem to drink enough water; I felt terrible."

As soon as he got back to Washington, DC, he rushed over to George Washington University Hospital's emergency room. After a few tests, a doctor told Minor that he had an elevated blood glucose (sugar) level of 810. A normal blood sugar level should be somewhere between 100 and 140. "You should be unconscious right now. Do you know that you have diabetes?"

Minor was shocked. But he quickly followed his doctor's instructions: He lost weight, exercised, ate a healthier diet, and felt great for years. But damage had been done. A few years ago, his doctor could see that Minor's creatinine level was climbing—his kidneys were not flushing the waste out of his system. The verdict? A kidney transplant.

"After I found out I had to get a kidney transplant, I thought it was all over for me," he says. But he promised himself that if he got the chance, he would do something to spread the word about diabetes and kidney disease—especially in the African American community. African Americans make up 32 percent of U.S. patients receiving dialysis for kidney failure, although they are only 11 percent of the population.

Then, he got the good news that his wife Kathy was a kidney-match for a kidney transplant. Minor decided he would make a video to let others know about the dangers of diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. Minor has now produced a video trailer and a nine-minute preview of I Didn't Know (both available on YouTube), with his friend James Brown of CBS Sports as the announcer and patients like himself featured in dialysis treatments.

"My wife came up with the title, I Didn't Know, because every time we tell someone else about diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease, that's what they say."

Fall 2012 Issue: Volume 7 Number 3 Page 13