Diabetes discovery
Woman with diabetes soldiers on

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Nov 13/98) - For 48 years, Pat Grandy went through life thinking little about her blood- sugar level.

Now diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, she must check her level regularly.

"I have to force myself to have breakfast," the divorced mother of one says at her desk in the Inuvik Regional Hospital's transportation unit after finishing munching on an apple as a snack.

"I hate breakfast. And, I tell you, I don't know if I feel better for having it, but I have to."

Part of Grandy's treatment is eating three regular meals a day and having small snacks in between.

Another part is keeping her sugar intake lower than before. She still eats similar foods, she just makes sure her favourite canned pineapple bits come in their own juice instead of a light syrup.

"I used to like cheese and crackers. I still eat cheese and crackers, but the crackers are stonewheat."

Grandy carries a glucometer, in a case the size of a daytimer, to work. She places a strip with a sharp tip into the small gadget and, four times a day, pricks her finger to take the reading.

Diabetes is when a person's body cannot properly store and use fuel for energy. That fuel is sugar in the form of glucose and it needs insulin to convert it into energy.

Diabetes comes in two forms: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 is when people do not produce any insulin, while Type 2 diabetes is when people do not have enough insulin or are not able to use the insulin that is produced.

One sign Grandy was afflicted with diabetes was that her eyesight grew steadily worse.

"Sugar attaches itself to lenses in the eyes," says Grandy, who takes oral insulin.

Even though there was no history of the disease in her family, her doctor suggested she take a blood test for diabetes and she found out she had the disease.

For Inuvik residents such as Grandy, the Inuvik Regional Hospital has started a diabetes clinic with a symposium starting Nov. 24.

The educational forum is not for the general public, but for those with a doctor's referral.

"For every one person diagnosed with diabetes there is probably another person with diabetes who has not been diagnosed yet," says Heather Munro, who is a nurse co-ordinating the symposium.

Munro says some symptoms of high blood sugar are excessive thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, abdominal pain and a nagging hot and sweaty feeling of being unwell.

Another main factor is obesity and sudden weight loss.

Some high-risk aspects people can change include getting exercise and maintaining a healthful and regular diet.

Inuvik Regional Hospital CEO Ray Scott estimates there are about 100 people with diabetes in the region.