Dr. Gideon Assan writes on World Diabetes Day: ‘Touch not my anointed’ and the diabetic patient

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I saw it happen in Cape Coast and here in Accra too, it is happening. I’m sure it is happening in Kumasi. It is happening in Tamale and it is happening in Takoradi. In fact, it is happening everywhere – The headache of every medical doctor.

About 300 meters away, I could hear the deafening horn of an old but robust taxi at top speed heading towards the hospital.
“That must be an emergency ” I braced myself up to meet whoever was coming in for medical help – it was a good day to save a life.

There she was, a 46-year-old Ms Ellen(not her real name), a known diabetic patient, unresponsive in bed with an obviously bad looking wound(ulcer) on the right foot. As soon as the nurse told me that the patient recorded a terribly low blood pressure and an usually high blood sugar, I knew exactly what was wrong. I knew she was in the red zone and something had to be done quickly. Further investigation revealed that Ellen had a condition known in medicine as Septic shock with the wound(ulcer) on the right foot as the source of infection.

Before I tell you what drove her into that deplorable condition and whether or not this diabetic patient survived, I want to open the floor for anyone who has questions about Diabetes in general.

  1. My name is Alfred Kaitoo Yaw and I know of a friend whose dad has been diagnosed of diabetes. Does it mean he will also get diabetes? And what does it even mean to have diabetes in the first place?

Okay Alfred, diabetes Mellitus, simply put, is a disease that results from having too much sugar in your blood.
The body converts the food you eat into blood sugar.
That means that any time you eat, there is sugar in your blood.
Now, a hormone called insulin pushes the sugar from the blood into the body cells to give the body energy. In effect, insulin lowers the amount of sugar in the blood since it pushes the sugar in the blood into the body cells.
Unfortunately, sometimes, your body doesn’t make enough or any insulin at all or does not use the insulin well. The sugar now stays in your blood instead of getting pushed into the body cells. After sometime, a build up of sugar in the blood poses significant health problems to the individual.
Diabetes could be hereditary – it doesn’t mean that if your mother or father has diabetes, you’re guaranteed to develop it; instead, it means that you have a greater chance of developing diabetes and regular check up is greatly encouraged.

  1. Hello, my name is Daniel Kwaku Gyasi and my friends call me El – Guapo. I would like to know how one can detect if he or she has diabetes.

Good question Daniel. I cannot look at your face and tell if you have diabetes or not but some symptoms you portray may indicate if you have the condition or not. Some of the symptoms include but not limited to the following: ​
Frequent urination
increased thirst
Feeling very hungry often
Excessive thirst
Feeling very tired often and easily
Weight loss
Blurry eyesight.
It is very important that you pay attention to these symptoms and report to the hospital anytime you begin to experience a number of them. Let me hasten to add, however, that there are people with diabetes who show no symptoms and the only way to find out is to visit the hospital for diabetic screening: the health care provider will order some laboratory tests and based on the findings, will indicate if there is a cause for alarm.

  1. My name is Yussif Mussawir and I want to find out who is at risk of having diabetes.

Yussif, one thing you have to know is that the risk factors are dependent on the type of diabetes one is having. Let me take the opportunity to highlight among others, the 2 major types of diabetes.
I mentioned earlier that insulin is what drives the sugar in the blood into the cells. In a case where the body is unable to produce insulin at all or the body produces ridiculously low amount of insulin, a build up of sugar in the blood leads to Type 1 diabetes.
If for some reason, the insulin produced by your body is not functioning effectively, the resulting build up of sugar in the blood results in Type 2 diabetes.
Known risk factors for type 1 diabetes include:

  1. Family history(Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 1 diabetes)
  2. Age(You can get type 1 diabetes at any age, but it’s more likely to develop when you’re a child or a teen. Most noticed in children between 4 – 14 years old.

Factors that may increase your risk of type 2 diabetes include:

  1. Weight: Being overweight or obese has been shown to be one of the major risk factors.
  2. Poor fat distribution: If fat is accumulated in your abdomen, rather than your hips and thighs, studies have shown that your risk of type 2 diabetes increases. If you are a man with a waist circumference above 100centimeters and a woman with a waist measurement above 90 centimeters, there is a need to make a conscious effort to work hard to reduce those numbers.
  3. Sedentary lifestyle. Living an inactive life poses a significant risk to having diabetes. Apart from the fact that exercise helps in weight control, blood sugar get used up and your cells become more sensitive to insulin.
  4. Family history. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases if your parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.
  5. Race and ethnicity. Although it’s unclear why, Blacks and Asians are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than white people.
  6. Age. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45.
  7. Polycystic ovary syndrome. Having polycystic ovary syndrome — a common condition characterized by irregular menstrual periods, excess hair growth and obesity — increases the risk of diabetes.

I will like to take the last question from a female.

  1. My name is Mrs Perfect Aflakpui and I want to know the management for diabetes and what will happen if diabetes is left untreated.

The best way to manage diabetes is to keep the sugar in the blood under control and to prevent any complications. This can be done by controlling your diet and with medications. It is important to see and seek advice from your doctor periodically on what and what not to do. [Diabetes can be pretty disturbing and those who joke with it, joke with their lives.]
A lot of things can go wrong if diabetes is left uncontrolled;
Heart diseases.
Kidney damage.
Eye damage (blindness)
Skin conditions.
Hearing impairment.

Now tell me; Where can I find Pastor Sam? Ms. Ellen told me that he lives around Haatso, Accra. That is the pastor who told her to disregard all her diabetic medications and rely solely on the anointing oil.
It all started when Ms Ellen developed a wound on her right leg about 2months ago and the more she tried to get the wound healed, the more it got worse. How can a wound that started off so little, end up being this huge? She found it weird and thought it was the doing of her enemies. What she did not know was that in diabetic patients, wound healing is a big problem. Even a small cut on the leg may progress to amputation if care is not taken. You can apply all the herbal preparations in the world, you can use all orthodox medications in the world but if your sugars are not well controlled, the wound can only get worse. The wound can get infected and spread to the entire blood just as in the case of Ms Ellen. She was lucky to have survived after an aggressive resuscitation and appropriate antibiotics.

I was born into Christianity. My mum was once the head of the women fellowship of Assemblies of God church and she later rose to become an elder of the Church. In fact, I used to be a Sunday school teacher and back in Mfantsipim School, I was the Organizing Secretary for the Scripture Union. I was again, a member of the prayer wing of the Christian Medical Fellowship and so I understand the dynamics of prayers and faith. However, I disagree vehemently with pastors who tell the sick to throw away their medicines and rely on the anointing oil. In any case, why don’t we combine the prayers with her medicines? Will the prayers lose efficiency if the doctor’s management is adhered to?

If you dare advice some pastors on the need to avoid completely substituting medicines with prayers, you will be reminded of Psalm 105:15, “Touch not my anointed”

This is not the first time a patient ignorantly listened to a pastor which nearly cost his or her life – I saw it happen in Cape Coast and here in Accra too, it is happening. I’m sure it is happening in Kumasi. It is happening in Tamale and it is happening in Takoradi. In fact, it is happening everywhere – The headache of every medical doctor.

By Dr Gideon Assan

The writer is a young medical practitioner with particular interest in health advocacy and digital health.

Email: [email protected]