Diabetes and me: how silent killer caught up with NHS chief
'I just knew something was wrong with me. For several months I had been becoming increasingly, unusually tired and was needing to go to the toilet five or six times a night. I knew it wasn't overwork or stress but didn't know what it could be. My wife Sarah-Jane thought I was just a bit rundown.
This was towards the end of 2012. However, the travelling involved in being chief executive of the NHS, the birth of my daughter Rosa that November and the fact that I'd just moved house meant I didn't get round to seeing my GP until Christmas Eve, a while after the symptoms appeared.
Pretty much right away my GP said: "It sounds like diabetes to me". He took some blood, put it into a machine and it showed that my blood glucose level was way beyond what it should be. That confirmed that I had type 2 diabetes.
He said: "You're going to the toilet a lot as your kidneys are responding to high levels of sugar in your blood and your body deals with that by urinating it out." I said, 'Can I be cured? Can I get out of this?' But he said, 'No, you've got it for life."
He also explained that the main complications of diabetes are heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputation of a lower limb. I knew all that already; I'd given evidence to the public accounts committee about diabetes a few months earlier, ironically. But to hear a doctor saying this to me about me was sobering and very scary.
It was particularly sobering because my father, who'd been a plasterer, died when he was 68 from emphysema and asthma. He spent his last years in a wheelchair. My grandfather, a labourer Continue reading