David McKay Wilson 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Through the cold of winter and the heat of summer, Laurie Richardson, 44, carefully descends the stairs from her second-floor apartment in St. Paul and hikes as many as 10 blocks to a bus stop. Leading her is Maple, her auburn Labrador-poodle guide dog provided by Lions. Richardson leaves home to speak on diabetes before community groups and at health clinic seminars. She urges her listeners to catch the disease early and to seek appropriate care once diagnosed. She knows full well the dangers of diabetes: it took her sight 20 years ago. “People think blindness is hard, but living with diabetes is more than a full-time job. It never goes away,” says Richardson, a proud member of the St. Paul Diabetes Lions Club. “I’m always thinking about how I feel, what I’m eating. There’s no relief. If you are diabetic and don’t take care of yourself, your health can deteriorate very quickly. A great vacation for me would be a day without diabetes, to know what it’s like to be a normal person.” Richardson is among an estimated 24 million Americans who have diabetes. Cancer and heart disease may strike more fear, but as Richardson and millions of others can attest, diabetes is a dreadful disease, too. It can lead to blindness, kidney disease and nerve and heart damage. It grievously harms many lives and ends others. While rates of heart disease and cancer are stable or have slowed, diabetes is nearing an epidemic level. Its prevalence in the United States increased 50 percent just during the last decade. Sedentary lifestyles and fast-food diets will continue to exact a toll. One in three children born in the United States is expected to become diabetic in their lifetime. The picture is just as bleak in Canada and worldwide. The number of Canadians diagnosed with diabetes is expected to double between 2000 and 2010. Even today one in four Canadians either has diabetes or prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than Normal, but can be lowered by increased exercise and proper nutrition. The World Health Organization estimates the number of people with diabetes worldwide will grow an estimated 50 percent to 370 million by 2025. In the popular mind, diabetes sometimes is seen as just a setback or nuisance. But besides the potential for devastating complications, the disease shatters the normal routines of families, drives up insurance premiums and strains the budget of heath care providers. It’s no wonder that the commissioner of health in New York City, where the disease is particularly prevalent, told The New York Times that “either we fall apart or we stop this.” The good news is that Lions are countering the disease in many ways. Lions hold screenings that have helped save diabetics from blindness, nerve damage, toe amputations, stroke and heart attacks. Research funded by Lions has led to treatment techniques that have helped arrest the degeneration of eyesight for diabetics. Lions camps give thousands of diabetic children invaluable skills to manage the disease. “Blindness is our thing, and diabetes is One of the major causes of blindness,” says Joseph Paparella, president of the Shrewsbury Lions Club in Massachusetts, which raised about $15,000 for diabetes-related programs in 2009. “There has been so much progress in eye care since Helen Keller asked the Lions in 1925 to be the knights of the blind and lead the crusade against darkness. Supporting programs for diabetes is one way to help in that crusade.” ‘Such Need’ Clubs have battled diabetes for decades but their efforts received a new impetus in 1984 when Lions Club International (LCI) established its Diabetes Awareness and Action program. LCI coordinates district diabetes chairpersons, provides online resources and promotes awards. It also partners with the National Diabetes Education Program to disseminate materials that help diabetics manage their illness and works with the Diabetes Education and Camping Association to promote camps for children coping with the disease. International President Eberhard J. Wirfs said that the association “will continue to encourage its membership to become increasingly involved with diabetes-related projects and activities in response to this growing epidemic.” Since 2006, LCI has backed Strides Walks. The Strides: Lions Walk for Diabetes Awareness program has organized events in 20 states and 10 countries. The events heighten awareness of diabetes, encourage physical exercise and often raise money for diabetes programs. The message in the Strides walks is clear: daily exercise, weight loss and a good diet can help prevent the development of Type 2 diabetes. Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) is helping Lions fight diabetes. LCIF has provided 100 diabetesrelated grants totaling $7.7 million. The grants support screenings, education programs, new equipment for clinics, summer camps for diabetic children and other efforts. Funds raised through Campaign SightFirst II will target diabetic retinopathy and other emerging threats to sight. Clubs and districts throughout North America are countering diabetes. In southwest Pennsylvania, many people in Butler County scrape by as bus drivers or as convenience store and fast food workers, part-time jobs without health insurance. The Community Health Clinic provides free basic healthcare for low-income people. Two hundred diabetics receive eye and foot exams and receive nutrition and lifestyle counseling. A doctor, diabetes nutritionist and diabetes nurse are among the 150 volunteers at the clinic. Lions in District 14-N teamed with LCIF to fund setup costs and buy equipment and supplies for the Lions Den examination room, the focal point of the clinic’s diabetes program. “We teach them [diabetics] how to manage a chronic Illness,” said Cece Foster, executive director of the clinic. “We teach them to make better choices with nutrition, so if they are working they can continue to work.” Some patients diagnosed with diabetes know little about it especially if they have no family history of it and have no access to the Internet. The clinic provides one-on-one lifestyle counseling and monitors glucose levels. The care is keeping the disease in check. “I can’t emphasize enough how important Lions were to getting us where we are,” said Foster. Near Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, the McKeesport Lions Club, with a $50,000 LCIF grant, helped establish the Lions Diabetes Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center McKeesport. Staffed by a physician, dietician and program director, the Lions Diabetes Center is an integral part of the hospital’s community offerings. Since 1993, the McKeesport Hospital Foundation, chaired by Robert Mesher, the past governor of District 14 E, has raised more than $200,000 to furnish medication and supplies for low-income diabetics in a region still reeling from the closure of local steel mills. District 14B and 14E hold an annual fundraising event to support the diabetes program here. Mary Jane Keller, first vice governor of District 14B in Allegheny County, has co-chaired the annual diabetes auction, which during the past 16 years has drawn up to 250 patrons each year to bid on such items as Pittsburgh Steelers memorabilia, a mountain bike, barbecue grill or tickets to the ballet. In 2009, for example, the foundation spent $13,200 on 138 prescriptions and supplies for 78 diabetics at the hospital pharmacy. “There’s such need,” says Michele Matuch, past president of the McKeesport Lions and executive director of the foundation. “People may have health insurance but may not have coverage for their medication.” In Minnesota, the St. Paul Diabetes Lions Club was founded in 2007 to devote its community service to diabetes. The 25-member club includes a dentist, diabetes educators, other health professionals and diabetics. It’s a key club among 46 in District 5-M6 that have used a $75,000 grant from LCIF for diabetes education and screenings. The clubs particularly focus on Spanish-speaking residents and Hmong immigrants from Laos, who disproportionately suffer from the disease. A DVD in the Hmong language is shown at community health centers in St. Paul. The clubs also pay for medication for those who can’t afford the cost of insulin or oral medications, which can run up to $200 per month. “We recognize that diabetes care needs to extend well beyond the health-care system,” says club founder Marsha Hughes, director of diabetes care at Healtheast in St. Paul. “The community needs to help out as well. If we can identify someone who is pre-diabetic, we can get them help to change the course of their health.” In North Dakota, the Williston Lions Club helps sponsor the annual Diabetes Health Day at the Trinity Regional Eyecare Clinic. This year, 33 diabetics drove as much as three hours for the free diabetes education, dietary counseling, dental screening, dilated eye exams and foot exams. The Williston Lions donated $350 to cover the cost of lab work for 18 patients. If the patients had obtained lab work privately, it would have cost them $175 each. The exams found that 24 of the 33 diabetics had significant Changes in their vision and were referred for further treatment. One diabetic had retinopathy and was referred for laser treatment. Among those referred was Duane Mork, 58, who was diagnosed with diabetes seven years ago. He drove 60 miles in November to have his eyes checked. Mork, a former mail carrier, can no longer perform that work because of circulatory problems in his feet caused by diabetes. He lacks health insurance, faces an $8,000 bill for a recent two-day hospital stay and now finds he has trouble with night vision for his current job of delivering newspapers on a 100-mile route before the sun rises. The dilated eye exam found deterioration of his retina. “I have a limited budget and can’t afford an eye exam, so this is a great service,” says Mork. “Now I know that if my eyesight gets any worse, I need to come in right away.” In Las Vegas, the Summerlin Lions are helping Type 2 Diabetics save their feet from amputation by providing free screenings. Lions are partnering with The Lower Extremity Prevention Alliance and the Nevada Podiatric Medical Association. Dr. Larry Rubin, a retired podiatrist and a Lion since 1983, told a newspaper: “This is my passion, because when you see a diabetic come in with serious problems, you know it all could have been avoided if they’d just had an exam.” During the screening, participants remove their shoes and close their eyes while pressure applied with a thin filament to the sole is measured. The nerve test with eyes closed forces them to rely only on their sense of touch. If people test positive during the two-minute screening, a follow-up visit to a doctor is recommended. Role of Research Lions play an important role in funding research into the causes and treatment of diabetes. The Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund alone has invested $5 million in cutting-edge research at the Joslin Diabetes Center’s Beetham Eye Institute in Boston. One Beetham study is looking at retinal blood flow in the eyes of diabetic patients. Dr. Jennifer Sun is studying the experiences of 335 diabetes patients who had their retinal blood flow tested in the early 1990s. They are now being retested to see how their medication regimen has affected their eyesight today. “We’re now looking at whether the results on blood flow in the early 1990s is associated with the current blood flow or predictive of what will happen 10 years later,” says Sun. She says preliminary research shows that faster blood flow may be associated with faster progression of diabetic eye complications. If that can be proven, Sun says physicians will be able to predict, in the early stages of the disease, who would be more at risk, and then manage the disease differently by targeting those patients they think need more aggressive treatment. Another Beetham study funded by the Lions is track- Ing diabetics who have lived with Type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years. The Lions provided the seed money that has led to an in-depth study of more than 500 diabetics who come to Joslin for a rigorous battery of tests. The study has found that about 40 percent of the diabetics living more than 50 years have remained free from complications. The study is using molecular, genetic, biological and physiological methods to determine what protects those with diabetes who remain healthy. “A surprisingly high number seem to be protected from kidney disease, heart disease and eye disease,” says Sun. “We are looking at what makes them different from others who develop vascular complications.” The latest technology, funded by Lions grants, can improve patient care. In 2009, Beetham purchased an eye-imaging system with a $150,000 Lions Presidential Grant from the Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund and LCIF. The spectral-domain optical coherence tomography instrument gives detailed cross-sectional views of the back portion of the eye called the retina, where diabetes most commonly causes vision loss. The device can very accurately measure the thickness of the retina, aiding efforts to treat the cause of vision loss known as diabetic macular edema. “With this device, you can observe various changes in the retina that you can’t see with the naked eye or with other methods of evaluation,” says Beetham Director Dr. Lloyd Paul Aiello. Screening Success Some Lions districts have developed massive diabetes education and screening programs. Since 2008, Lions in Florida have screened more 16,000 people – at neighborhood bodegas in Hispanic neighborhoods, libraries, farmer’s markets, camps for migrant workers, car shows, or schools, where a growing number of children have been found with high glucose levels. The grassroots diabetes program was supported by a $33,000 grant from LCIF. An estimated 21 percent of those screened – almost 3,000 – were referred to their physicians for follow-up. “If we can catch them before they become diabetics, you can intervene, get them to change their diets and exercise more. You can prevent someone from becoming a Type 2 diabetic,” says Dr. Norma Callahan, president of the Volusia County Lions Club of Deland. Callahan’s family experience with diabetes (see sidebar) spurred her to lead the statewide diabetes initiative. Sometimes, it is too late to prevent Type 2 diabetes. A normal blood sugar reading is 70 to 110 mg/dL. At one recent screening, an adult’s blood sugar was so high it couldn’t be read by the glucose monitor. “Most of those we refer have no symptoms at all,” says Callahan. “It’s scary.” Volusia County Lions, which Callahan helped start in 2008, serves as the core group for the diabetes initiative. A registered nurse and naturopathic physician, Callahan has helped train 600 Lions across the state to do the screenings. In addition, to continue the project once the LCIF funds run out, she also established the Lions Diabetes Awareness Foundation of MD35 to raise funds. The training led by Callahan is a one-day workshop, which includes a healthy lunch for diabetics. The screeners are taught portion control, an important part of a healthy diet. Trainees take a written exam, and then carry out a screening on each other. The volunteers learn to prick someone’s finger with a lancet to obtain a drop of blood, put the blood onto a detection strip and then have it read by the glucose meter. “The screenings appeal to Lions who are action-oriented,” says Callahan. “It’s hands-on, and we do it wherever we can put a table up.” Carolyn Song, a vice district governor and a member of the Viera Lions Club, drove two hours with her husband in July 2008 to be trained. Her club now has nine certified screeners, and they’ve conducted screenings at numerous events including the Cocoa Home Expo, where they referred 10 of 160 people screened for follow-up by their doctors. At the club’s first screening, one man had a reading of over 500 mg/dL – more than five times the normal level. He was re-tested. The reading didn’t change. He was immediately referred to the local emergency room. “His wife called the next day and was very grateful,” recalls Song. “He had blurry vision, was always thirsty but had never been diagnosed. He knew he had problems, but didn’t know what was causing it.” She says the screenings have also raised the visibility of the Lions in her community. Her club has trained screeners because so many other clubs in the region had seen their work and wanted to learn how they could help. “A lot of people don’t know who the Lions are, and this project gets us out in the community,” says Song. “People get to meet us and see what we do.” Camps for Kids Growing up with diabetes has not been easy for Carrie Aultman, a 14-year-old from Gadsden, Alabama. There are finger-pricks for blood-sugar tests several times per day, and injections of insulin if her reading is too high, or the need of a carbohydrate snack if it’s too low. She also sometimes felt that she was only girl in northeast Alabama who bore the burden of living with diabetes. Then her grandmother learned of the Rainbow City Lions’ involvement with Camp Seale Harris, where diabetic children come each summer for a week to enjoy the simple pleasures of a sleep-away camp and learn how best to manage the illness. For the past nine years, Aultman has attended the camp through a Lions scholarship. The camp operates with major support from Lions across Alabama. “The first time I went, I was shocked that so many kids were diabetic,” says Aultman. “It was a big-time relief for me, and I so much look forward to coming back year after year.” At camp, diabetic children do crafts, ride horses, go swimming and sit around the campfire. They learn about managing their disease through proper diet, exercise and medication. It’s also a break for the parents of diabetic children as well. For some, it’s the first time the parents have slept through the night since their child was diagnosed with diabetes because they had to get up in the middle of the night to check their child’s blood glucose level. At the camps, volunteer medical personnel do the nocturnal checks. Camp Director Terry Ackley recalls that a Lion encouraged him to send his daughter to Camp Seale when she was 7 years old. “It’s unreal how hard it was to let her go away,” says Ackley. “No one else had provided her with care. She’d never spent a night away from home. But we decided to trust them to care for her, and she had such a wonderful experience.” Those weeks away at camp can have profound influence on diabetic children. Alicia McAuliffe-Fogarty, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 11, grew up in the suburbs of Albany, New York. When she was 16, her local Lions club gave her a scholarship to attend a summer camp for diabetic children in Sweden. “I’d never met anyone my age with diabetes,” she recalls. “It was really liberating. Every child with diabetes should have that opportunity.” She returned from Europe determined to make a difference for other children with the disease. Two years later, in the summer after her freshman year at college, she founded the Circle of Life Camp and welcomed 22 diabetic campers. During the ensuing 15 years, during which time she has earned a doctorate in child psychology, McAuliffe-Fogarty has operated the camp in rented facilities, with the dream that someday the Circle of Life might have a home of its own. Then in late 2009 McAuliffe- Fogarty forged a partnership agreement with Lions Camp Badger in Spencer, a 400-acre complex in central New York with 20 cabins, a lake, in-ground swimming pool, chapel, dining hall and pavilion. For decades, the camp has provided summer experiences for children with intellectual disabilities, but as state services for that population have grown, the number of children attending the Lions camp has dramatically dwindled. “We know that the times change, and it makes sense to use our camp to impact the lives of children with diabetes,” says John Rabideau, president of Lions Camp Badger and a past international director. “We were looking for a way to more fully use our camp, and now we’ve found it.” For McAuliffe-Fogarty, the new partnership has brought her full circle, back with the Lions who sponsored her on that life-changing week in Sweden 16 years ago. “I started out with the Lions years ago, and it feels great to be connected with them again,” she says. “They have a facility and a small program, and we have a program and no permanent facility. So it’s a perfect marriage.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Lions+Deter+Diabetes/342889/33670/article.html.