LAURINBURG — Jason Byrd, Laura Easterling, Pamela Williams and Charlotte Covington are among the thousands of North Carolinians who suffer with diabetes.
On Tuesday, the four shared another common bond — the Scotland County residents were among the at least 100 people who attended Tuesday’s annual Diabetes Fair at Scotland Memorial Hospital.
“I need to start taking better care of my health,” Byrd said as his feet were checked for normal sensations by registered nurse Kristie Dilling. “I feel like when you have this disease, once one thing starts to go, it’s all gonna go.”
Paula Love, director of the Scotland Wound Healing Center, said that what Byrd has seen happen to friends and relatives with the disease is all too common.
“Once they get a wound it keeps going — the toes, then the foot, then the legs,” she said.
This happens because diabetics develop a form of neuropathy, where they experience numbness in their feet and develop wounds that they don’t know about, she said. Combined with a diabetic’s inability to heal at a normal pace, it makes for a dangerous combination — the reason why the number one wound the center sees is diabetic-related and is usually on the foot.
“People go around with these sores and wounds on their legs, and they think ‘Well, I just have to live with this,’ and they don’t seek treatment, but that’s not true,” she said. “We can improve their quality of life.”
The fair, a collaborative effort between the Scotland Memorial Foundation, the Scotland County Department of Public Health and the the Scotland Health Care System, featured health screenings, product demonstrations and information booths all directed at making a diabetic’s life easier.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it can be done,” said Phyllis Simmons, who directs a diabetes self-management class.
Simmons calls management a “three-wheeled bicycle” — comprised of “what you eat,” “medication” and “exercise.”
For Easterling, diagnosed four months ago when a routine blood test turned up positive for the disease, diet has been the hardest part.
“I used to eat a lot of fried food, fast food,” she said, “and now I eat a lot of vegetables. It’s very hard to change your diet.”
Williams seconded Simmons’ thoughts, but said that she was willing to do whatever it took to manage her disease.
“After reality sets in, you just have to realize that you have to do things differently. You have to exercise, eat better, and say a whole lot of prayer.
“Maybe that should be at the top of the list,” she said.
After having breast and brain cancer, Covington has already trained herself to eat better — or at least less of what she knows is bad for her. But, she says remembering to take the medicine is hard, especially because it often makes her too tired to do what she enjoys.
“I’ve got a lot of information,” she said. “I have it, so I live it. But being here with other people, hearing people talk about it, it makes a difference because you hear about other people going through the same thing you’re going through.
“You don’t feel so alone.”
The event also offered a meal and talks from Dr. Chamaine Brooks, of Pembroke Family Practice Center, Dr. Glenn Harris, of Harris Family Practice, and Alanna Sandry, a registered dietitian from Morrisons Healthcare Food Service.