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Doctor Fighting Against Diabetes Is Also a Patient

Posted May. 21, 2007 03:01,   


Professor Kang Sung-ku, 62, of the Holy Family Hospital, Catholic University, is a diabetes specialist.

He is currently leading many organizations that research diabetes, including the Korean Diabetes Association, the Korea-Japan Diabetes Association, and is the Asia Pacific president of the International Diabetes Federation. He sees about 90 diabetic patients a day. What is even more surprising is that he himself is a diabetic.

“Diseases do not spare doctors”-

It was September 2000 when he was in Tokyo, Japan to attend the Korea Japan Diabetes Association that he realized that he had diabetes.

“Three of my teeth fell out when I woke up. I was scared. I knew right away that I had diabetes. I tested my blood sugar and the level was over 270mg, even though I had not even had anything to eat.”

If your blood level is over 126mg on an empty stomach, you are testing positive for diabetes. Even 100mg to 125mg is considered dangerous. 270mg meant that Professor Kang was in serious trouble.

Professor Kang now realized that his peripheral nerve disorder, which hindered his sleep, left his hands and feet numb, and made his skin itchy, was not due to alcohol consumption. It was because of diabetes.

“I received an yearly checkup. But the problem was that I prepared myself for those checkups by forgoing alcohol for days prior to the checkup. This is why my diabetes eluded the checkups”

Professor Kang had been busy at that times, having four official titles. He had so many appointments that he ate dinner at home only twice a year-Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. He drank lots of alcohol and overate. He had many trips abroad and to the other provinces. He was deprived of sleep and was even busy during weekends meeting people.

“To sum it up, I led a very unhealthy life. During weekends, I would go to seminars abroad, come back on a morning flight and go straight to work to attend a meeting as the head of a hospital starting Monday. The lack of sleep was critical.”

Professor Kang was in a debilitating condition. Not only did he have diabetes, but he also had high blood pressure and a fatty liver.

The main causes of diabetes are genes and irregular living patterns. Sometimes a flu virus that has stayed in the pancreas for more than 20 years becomes the cause of diabetes. Professor Kang found out that he had diabetes late like most patients. His reaction was, however, doctor-like.

He resigned from many posts. He could not resign from his post as Asia Pacific president of the International Diabetes Federation right away. He also could not resign from the post of president of the Korean Diabetes Association and is its president to this day. He still had about three appointments a day, but was careful about what he ate.

He abstained from drinking and calculated how many calories he took in. He gave up smoking. He acted accordingly to “doctor’s orders.”

He also started exercising. He ran 10kms a day and up to five times a week. Even during seminars abroad, he ran laps around his hotel for 40 minutes to offset his eventful shot of alcohol later.

Tending to his patients and his social responsibilities, he barely had time to exercise. He made sure that he got at least an hour of exercise a day. He exercised for 20 minutes after lunch and five minutes on his way back to his office after seeing a patient every now and then. He stretched whenever he had the chance.

“Some patients are intimidated when they hear that they have to exercise for an hour a day. But they do not have to exercise the whole hour at once. They can divide that hour up and exercise several minutes every now and then.”

“These days, diabetes patients are well off,” says Professor Kang. He says that there are insulin shots and many means to make sure the patient is safe. A new medicine that spurs the growth of beta cells in the pancreas, which secretes insulin, will be introduced late this year.

“Medicine, however, is useless unless the patient changes his old ways. The patient has to start a new life if he cares about his life.”

Professor Kang, who is also a diabetes patient, urges other patients to get a handle on their lives.