It was 5:30 AM. After an exhausting first month of surgical residency, I was beat and could barely keep my eyes open. It was only several hours prior when I was paged regarding a patient requiring urgent consultation for a severe foot infection. After visiting several other post surgical patients, I made my way to this new patient’s room. Prior to entering the room, I made a quick stop at the computer to look at his vitals and lab values. After a brief review, there were two numbers that immediately jumped out and grabbed my attention. The first being his blood sugar, which had managed to climb above 500. For readers not familiar with blood sugar levels, we like to see it around or below 100. The second value, which shocked me above, all was his age. At 22 years young, this young man was currently experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a situation that cause severe multi-organ damage or failure as well as potentially loss of life.
I finally entered his room. I was able to have a wonderful discussion with the patient as I gather information about his medical history. Then, I began to examine his feet. I was horrified as I took note of a massive wound to his right foot, severely infected, clearly heading the wrong direction. Even more noteworthy was that he had already undergone amputation of a large portion of his foot. I then glanced to the left foot, where a similar amputation had already been performed. So here was a young man with his whole life ahead of him and had already undergone two major amputations to his feet, forever changing the course of the rest of his life.
As a new and young resident, I was horrified. In fact, I actually was very emotional after leaving his room. This patient was much younger than myself. And here he was completely debilitated due to the devastating effects of diabetes. Coming from a different background, I couldn’t make sense of why this young person was already succumbing the assault of diabetes. We eventually took the patient back to the operating room for an additional amputation in effort to prevent greater limb loss.
I fortunately was able to observe him throughout the recovery process. He would attend clinic weekly while we cared for his wounds and helped him heal. He eventually was able to walk with custom shoes and close monitoring. What was at first a tragic and impactful experience for me became a gratifying moment where I remembered exactly why I chose to do what I do.
Sadly, over the course of my three years in East Los Angeles, I saw numerous young adults in similar situations with similar outcomes. This became a common theme. It helped to fortify my resolve to help people overcome their struggle with diabetes and confront the common risk factors head on. Many of the problems people face pertaining to diabetes are manageable. If you have seen the movie, “What About Bob?,” you would understand the phrase “Baby Steps.” Often times, taking baby steps to control diabetes, baby steps to care for your body, and baby steps to help care for your loved ones, the horrifying complications of diabetes can be prevented or minimized.
I would encourage anyone currently dealing with diabetes or people with family and friends battling this disease, to take inventory of yourself. Yes that includes the people without diabetes. We are all in this together. We need to strengthen and encourage ourselves and others. I strongly believe that we have such great influence to help change and improve lives, whether our own lives, or those of the people we love. We can do! Lets all work together to take Baby Steps and stomp diabetes out of our lives.
Justin Banks, Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, is passionate about quality of life, especially when it comes to being able to move. He is located at Exodus Healthcare Network, 3665 S. 8400 W., Suite 100 in Magna. Dr. Banks is now accepting new patients. If you have any foot concerns or questions that you would like to talk with Dr. Banks about, call 801-250-9638 to make an appointment.