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Thursday September 21st 2017

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Caring for and Preventing Diabetes in the BACKYARD

Mr. Ray Thompson, Anchor Families CHAT leader and Callahan Clark, Phillips Neighborhood Clinic, connecting after a BYI Dinner and Diabetes Dialogue (Triple D) event in April. (see following interview with Mr. Ray Thompson)

Connecting with Neighbors About Diabetes: an interview with Mr. Ray Thompson

What better way to learn about diabetes and how to live with it than to talk to someone who has diabetes and lives a full and active life? Powderhorn Park Neighborhood resident, Mr. Ray Thompson, discovered he had diabetes in 2006.  Mr. Ray, as he is known to his neighbors and to other resident leaders within the Backyard Initiative, is truly an inspiration to not just “learning to live with diabetes” but in taking charge of his own health and helping his neighbors do the same.

How did you discover you had diabetes? R.T: “ When I began to gain weight without necessarily changing my food intake amount and my feet were swelling and I was using the washroom much more frequently, I decided to go and see the doctor.”

What did the doctor do? R.T:  “The doctor told me I had diabetes and I needed to get on medication right away. So I took pills. But I just kept eating the same way I always did. My diabetes got worse so the doctor prescribed me insulin but I didn’t want to use insulin.  The doctor stayed on me and showed me a lot of concern.  That is why I like this doctor.”

I remember you saying at a Backyard Initiative Dinner and Diabetes Dialogue (Triple D) event that you were able to reduce your blood sugar level and stay on pill medication. How did that occur? R.T: “I was beginning to have foot pain associated with my diabetes and the doctor wanted to prescribe a medication for that, too. I told him I wasn’t taking any more medication. About the same time, I was listening to a radio show where people were talking about the incredible constant pain in their feet and legs from diabetes.  That scared me.  I had been active and done sports when I was younger and just didn’t want to end up sitting around in pain and living that kind of life. I began to pay more attention to my body. When I ate more sweets, I had more pain. When I ate less sweets, cake and pie, I had less pain.  I realized I can do more to take control over my diabetes.”

What is your diabetes like now? R.T: “I used to see the doctor every 2 weeks, now I see him every 4 to 6 months. I still take medication and I check my blood sugar level about 3 times a week. I pay attention to my body and watch my diet. Everybody needs to splurge once in awhile so I will have a donut or a burger and then really watch my carbs the next few days. I don’t eat white bread, sweets, potato chips, bad carbs and if I do, I can tell and then I lay completely off of them for a few days. I know I need to exercise more, too.”

Did your work with the Backyard Initiative (BYI) have any influence in your approach to your health? R.T: “I patrolled my neighborhood, usually in my truck before I got involved in the BYI.  It is my way of protecting folks and helping to keep my neighborhood secure.  I grew up seeing my Mom work very, very hard to get what she had. Folks still work very hard and are gone all day at work. In less than an hour, someone can break in and take everything away from them. I don’t want that to happen to folks.

After I got involved with the BYI, I learned that I needed to connect with people more and not just patrol the neighborhood.  Sometimes, I stop and talk or I help folks fix their car or help them with something else. We can then get around to talking about health or diabetes. I have a routine now with new folks—I can’t just jump in and talk about health or personal stuff. So I still begin with talking about safety and security to build trust, so they know I am looking out for them and for our neighborhood. Then I can get around to talking and connecting with them about the other important stuff like their health.” [Mr. Ray Thompson is also a leader with the Backyard Initiative’s Anchor Families Community Health Action (CHAT). The interview was conducted by Susan Gust, BYI Communications CHAT member.]

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