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Michael on a Mission

Samoan patient Michael had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes more than 16 years ago but found it difficult to manage his health and medication with his demanding job. With his family’s support and some help from The Fono, he’s on a path to improving his health and managing his diabetes.

Long term patient of The Fono Henderson, Michael was diagnosed with Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 around 16 years ago.

The 54 year old Samoan wasn’t able to regularly attend his diabetes appointments due to his work commitments. He found it hard to find time to come to the clinic, having to work 5 – 6 days a week.

Driving a lot for his job, Michael would often stop at the bakery for convenience.

“I’d stop for a pie and pastries and I ate a lot of fast food with the other workers,” says Michael.

“It was difficult to keep up with the timing of my medication, especially my insulin which had to match my meal times.”

His General Practitioner says Michael’s highest HbA1c recording ever was 141 mmol/mol.

“A normal non-diabetes patient would have a reading of 20-40 (less than a quarter of Michael’s reading),” says Dr Alisi Keppler, Michaels GP.

Michael was suffering from tiredness, poor concentration, and failing eyesight.

He struggled to keep up with his work yet it was difficult for him to give up work as a father, husband and provider for his family.

“I started talking to my wife and children and expressing how concerned I was that if I didn’t change, my health was quickly slipping by,” he says.

“Worst of all I feared I might not be around to see my grandchildren.”

Michael says these family conversations continued to deepen over time and ultimately his wife and children unanimously agreed that Michael should stop work altogether and concentrate on his health.

“This meant that I became the house husband doing the daily home errands, cleaning the house and laundry,” he says.

“My children also accompanied me to the gym regularly and the whole family started walking together for exercise and eating healthily.”

Dr Keppler adds that amazingly, Michael’s latest HbA1c in January 2018 was 118 mmol/mol, a huge drop of 23 mmol/mol.

Michael has also lost 24kg since he stopped work.

He loves his life now and the family are very happy. He enjoys taking the time to walk, do household tasks and chores with a relaxed mind, while supporting his family who continue to pay the mortgage.

When asked what his secret tip for making successful lifestyle choices and improving his diabetes control is, Michael says he had to change in his mind first.

“I had to make the decision to change and recognise that my health is a priority.”

“Over the years I had been given the right medication and information but I didn’t take ownership of my diabetes.”

He credits his wife and children for supporting him to improve his health.

“It was obvious that I couldn’t keep up with my job but the need to pay the mortgage and support my family was a concern for me. I didn’t not want to be a burden to them,” he says.

“I really appreciate the care that my family has given me. Since I stopped work, I can now take control of my health, attend all my appointments, take my medication regularly, eat healthily and exercise regularly.”

He also says having a GP at The Fono that doesn’t treat everyone the same helped him to improve his health.

“Dr Alisi Keppler took the time to really listen to me and explained how poorly my diabetes control had been and where I needed to aim for. She told me I could do it,” he says.

“Other GPs have told me off before or have ignored me as a ‘hopeless case’ and were only interested in asking the questions but not hearing my answers.”

Dr Keppler says the GP’s role is important in empowering the patient.

“GPs have a lot of influential power on the patient to make lifestyle changes if they first engage well with the patient,” she says.

Michael says he also appreciates The Fono’s diabetes nurse who followed up.

“It is very nice to have the diabetes nurse call me and check that I am well with all the changes that are happening in my daily life,” he says.

“I aim to go down to a reading of 90mmol/mol or even lower, which I never thought was possible before!”

Michael’s tips for improving your diabetes situation

  1. Make the decision to change in your mind and make your health your priority
  2. Look to your family and loved ones for support to get you through
  3. Find a GP that takes the time to listen and encourage you like Dr Keppler did at The Fono
  4. Take advantage of the other diabetes services on offer such as the diabetes nurse
  5. It is important to take the time to attend your GP/Nurse, retinal screening, podiatrist and nutritionist appointments. Take your medications regularly as well as making healthy lifestyle changes.
  6. Diabetes is not a permanent condition, you can do a lot to reduce the high blood sugars by improving your nutrition and physical activity for an improved wellbeing.
  7. Improved lifestyle change is the mainstay of Diabetes management.

Find out more 

The Fono Diabetes Clinic 

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