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Forty-three year old stage and TV actor Stephen Wallem is a jack of all trades when it comes to entertainment. A TV public service announcement featuring Wallem is currently being broadcast nationwide. The actor recently took a break to speak to Diabetes Health publisher and editor-in-chief Nadia Al-Samarrie. Nadia: How hard is it to combine work on the set with managing your diabetes? Nadia: Has playing a character with diabetes made you more open about your condition?
Stephen: It certainly helps that they wrote in diabetes as part of my character, and that has forced me to be more honest with people I work with. I used to be very embarrassed about telling people that I had this condition. But since the day I made the decision to be flat-out honest with people and not try to hide my medical bracelet, people for the most part have been completely supportive.
If something came up and I felt my blood sugar drop, or if I needed an extra five minutes to take some glucose, or eat, or take my shots, boy, what freedom it was to be able to do it openly! Can you give me a few minutes?
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Nadia: Has your role as a nurse changed the way that you manage your diabetes? Stephen: It certainly has changed my outlook on everything.
Being part of the picture in a campaign to help treat and cure diabetes is important to me. I can help other people with diabetes know that everybody has ups and down with the disease. And that I pay for it later because my blood sugar is all over the place. I really welcomed the chance to talk to other people with diabetes. Doing that helps others and it helps me. Nadia: Everyone has a different perspective on how people with diabetes should manage their disease.
Do you run into different opinions about your own situation, and has that affected the choices you make? Stephen laughs : I was told that at a conference in Washington, DC, that there might be people with conflicting agendas and conflicting statements.
Instead I saw a room of diabetes educators and health professionals working toward a common goal. I remember meeting a doctor from Novo Nordisk.
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I walked out of there not only with a possible new doctor, but also with a pile of business cards and website addresses. These were contacts and le that would have taken me a very long time to research if I had started from scratch.
So, I felt inspired. It was great, like a fresh start. Diabetes is something you have to be conscious of 24 hours a day. You can never really forget about being aware of where your blood sugars are, what you should eat, when you should eat, and how much insulin you just took.
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I check my blood sugar at least four or five times a day. Food and exercise are still issues I struggle with. Nadia: Diabetes certainly compounds the problems involved in taking care of your health. I knew he was going to check my A1C, so I warned him that it was going to be very high.
I guess I was trying to soften the lecture I was expecting from him. Nadia: Have you had problems with your eyes as a complication of diabetes?
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Stephen: About 10 years ago, I developed diabetic retinopathy. I received laser treatments on both eyes, but, unfortunately, the bleeding got so bad that I needed surgery on both of them. I had two vitrectomies on my left eye and one on my right eye. I had a wonderful retinologist in Chicago who did the surgeries at Northwestern. We were able to save the eyesight in my right eye, but left eye was too far gone, so I did lose the sight in it.
Luckily I was put in touch with this great ocularist near Chicago, June Nichols, who makes optical shells.
The shell fits over my actual eye and moves with it. Nadia: What was it like for you and your family when you were first diagnosed? I stick out. None of us really had heard that much about diabetes when I was diagnosed in the late seventies as a year-old.
I had no idea what it meant when I suddenly started losing weight and urinating a lot. My parents took me to my regular doctor and then he sent me to the hospital, where I was diagnosed. I spent a week there in orientation, learning how to give myself injections by practicing with an orange and a syringe. Nadia: How did your parents take it?
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Stephen: They did the best that they could, but they had so little information at that time. We had no real frame of reference.
We had just what our doctors were going by, from what they knew back then. Obviously, today is a much better time for information. That makes it easier to handle. Nadia: Thank you, Stephen. January 12, Nadia Al-Samarrie 0 Comments.