Much about diabetes remains unknown
By Charlie Fidelman, Ottawa Citizen
Diabetic double amputee Raymond Giard, 83, transfers himself from his living-room seat to the wheelchair in his Laval apartment. He said he chooses not to use prosthetic limbs because the right one fits awkwardly and has a balky knee mechanism. ‘One leg I could manage, but not two. I’ve abdicated my wish to walk,’ he says. Photograph by: Phil Carpenter , The Gazette
At 83, Raymond Giard is the oldest member of the Jewish Rehabilitation Hospital support group and its only double amputee.
“I knew it could happen,” saidGiard, a diabetic for nearly 40 years. “But I didn’t expect it would happen to both legs.”
Until age 80, the retired electronic appliances representative drove a car and lived in a house that he shared with his beloved cat. In 2010, Giard’s doctor operated on his right leg, amputating at mid-thigh. The following year, his left leg was amputated below the knee. “I had to get rid of all of it,” said Girard, who realized he would never go home again.
Diabetes foot infections are the most common reason for admission to a hospital among Canadians living with diabetes, the Canadian Association of Wound Care said. Diabetes experts caution that the tragedy of amputations can largely be avoided with good sugar control and proper foot care. The longer someone has diabetes, the greater the chance of complications.
“There’s a lot about this disease that we still don’t know,” said Dr. Jan Hux, chief scientific adviser for the Canadian Diabetic Association. “Diabetes, unfortunately, often doesn’t travel alone. It’s accompanied often by high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and those factors also influence blood vessels, so you get a number of factors conspiring together.”
A 2011 report from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows that 36.5 per cent of Canadians reported having two or more other serious chronic conditions (hypertension, heart disease, obstructive pulmonary disease and arthritis) in addition to diabetes, and 12.5 per cent reported having three or more chronic conditions.
Apart from diabetes, Giard struggles with high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and his weight. His foot problems started in 2009 with the appearance of gangrene on the toes of one foot. Two weeks before his amputation in 2010, Giard underwent heart surgery to replace a valve that wasn’t working properly. He now has a pacemaker. He lives in a Laval residence for semi-autonomous seniors that provides three meals a day. “So it’s really hard to walk,” he said. “One leg I could manage, but not two. I’ve abdicated my wish to walk.”