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Type two diabetes - living well to reduce risk

On World Diabetes Day, Birmingham resident Trish Lally shares her story as part of her commitment to help others make healthy lifestyle choices and reduce their risk of type two diabetes.

An unhealthy lifestyle can significantly increase the risk of type two diabetes. Even small measures to reduce weight and increase activity can, in the long run, have a huge preventative effect.

As a cook supervisor, Trish Lally was relatively active during the working day. Although diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in her early 40s, she admits she was not one for regular exercise or calorie-counting; and smoked for many years.

Trish Lally

Then, about eight years ago, she started getting pains in her lower legs and went to see her GP.

“I was referred to a vascular clinic at Heartlands Hospital,” remembers the 60-year-old mother-of-one. “They told me to give up smoking, so I did – for a  while. But as soon as the pain got a bit better, I thought it was ok to start again.

“Like a lot of people, you choose to believe that everything will be alright – exercise and healthy eating can wait for another day.”

But the situation was already serious and Trish underwent a series of operations, including femoral bypasses and an operation to remove part of her left foot – the poor circulation had resulted in gangrene.

 “They were taking veins from my other leg and putting plastic tubes in to try and improve the circulation,” she says. “Eventually, they had to amputate part of my left foot and then I was like ‘Trish is back!’; I felt great. But unfortunately, that didn’t last.”

Trish had peripheral vascular disease, causing poor blood circulation in her limbs – particularly her lower legs. Then, one morning she was violently sick and couldn’t put any pressure on her left leg. An ambulance was called and a paramedic diagnosed sepsis.

“It was very sudden and they told me the whole leg would have to be amputated,” remembers Trish. “I just said ‘if it’s got to come off, it’s got to come off’.

 “It took me two years to get myself well again, physically and mentally. I’m a ‘people person’ – I still go up to the last place I worked, a day centre for people with physical and learning disabilities and I think the cheerful company of the people there has given me a good sense of perspective on what I’ve been through.”

Training programme

With the help of a diabetes education programme, Trisha has lost the three stones in weight she had gained during two years of operations and dramatically reduced her insulin dose.

Supported by daughter Bethany, she goes to the gym a couple of times a week and recently treated herself and her partner to a business class trip to New York for her 60th birthday.

And now she shares her experience as part of a training programme for doctors and nurses planning to specialise in the treatment and care of diabetes.

“There’s no point looking back, regretting things that I could have done different – but I certainly can use what I’ve learnt to help other people,” she said.

Community diabetes service consultant Dr Waqar Malik said: “Trisha has made significant changes to her lifestyle and is reaping the benefits in terms of her health and treatment.

"We’re very grateful for her support in raising awareness among healthcare professionals looking to specialise in diabetes care.

“Symptoms arising from poor circulation can develop very slowly – so it is important to pay good attention to diet and exercise throughout life. Don’t wait until symptoms appear to make lifestyle changes or seek medical advice.

"It is also extremely important to seek help to stop smoking, which is a significant risk factor for PVD.”

Click here to go to the Birmingham citywide diabetes team page.