Smile with Diabetes in Ghana

The sun in Africa is powerful, magnificent and alluring, but it’s midnight in Ghana. Fred just finished his 4th bowl of soup filled with succulent potatoes and fresh goat. Did he bolis, you bet yea.

Fred has been taking insulin since he can remember, in fact his motor memory of taking shots, Novo Rapid and Lantus pens, now comes as second nature. At 2 years old Fred credits his wonderful mother for keeping him alive.

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(From L to R, Fred, Lucas Muhammad)

Not all people have this ability, but some can smell their own ketones and others have Mom’s with an innate sense that something is wrong with their child. Fred’s Mom acted on this sense and took Fred to Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, where he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Staying up late at night and talking to his body of international friends, Fred wonders where his Mom’s strength came from. He exclaims people think that she is a witch, practicing magic. Luckily for Fred his Mom’s magic comes in the form of making sure he has insulin. Abra kedabra,

At 5 years old Fred gave himself his first shot, now it’s as routine as sending a text message. The rest of this blog story will depict Fred Appiah’s Heroic Journey from child of magic to leader and advocate for people thriving with diabetes in Ghana and around the world.

As kid, Fred’s favorite talking subject with his friends was diabetes. NOT. Fred tried his best to not talk about diabetes. Some psychoanalysis would say Fred was debilitated by grief, but his story is like many others and mine. One question about diabetes leads to another question and another question and then you have to hear about so and so and the uncomfortable angst builds. Fred and I would rather not hear about so and so and instead would rather talk with our feet on the soccer pitch, where Fred was a high school standout until a serious Achilles injury took him out of the game.

In Secondary school (High School), Fred’s journey with diabetes had some bumps, but with strong family support and close friends he was able to overcome these prairie dog hills. Secondary school for Fred was in Labone Ghana, a 2 hr drive from his hometown. On arrival, Fred’s explanation of diabetes came in the form of a doctor’s note, detailing his meals for B-Fast, Lunch and Dinner and materialized to access to sugar on campus, moderate carbs, and lots of fruits. Fred’s biggest goal for diabetes management during Secondary school was to avoid emergencies in class.

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(From L to R, Ammu, Lucas, Fred, Fred’s Endo)

Avoiding emergencies is a polar idea that has benefits and negative consequences. In dealing with diabetes autonomy in a new environment, avoiding emergencies sounds like a great idea. For Fred, he knew that he was keeping his BG’s high and that this has effects down the road, but at the time he needed a safety net just to be able to make it through school. Fred had no emergency situations in class, but the dorm hall was no smooth sail on the Golf of Guinea (Coast of Ghana).

Fred Appiah is a Warrior in the body of Kevin Heart with a Chris Rock personality. In the dormitory “it sucked”, Fred exclaims, “The kids all thought I was cool because I was taking drugs”. Sometimes the jokes got to Fred and other times he shrugged them off with a Wilfred Brimley diabetes song. Fred’s mindset was for survival of the 3yrs he had at Secondary School and so he didn’t give much care to the irrelevant turbulent teenage teasing taking place.

Survival didn’t come easy. Fred was so low once that he was filmed to show him how goofy and out of it he was at the time. His technique for survival comes in the form of communication.  No person in his Secondary school really knew about diabetes, so Fred learned that when you need help you have to ask for it and ask the right person. The right people for Fred are close friends and family members, whom he can open up to and freely chat about what’s on his mind. They let him lead the discussion around diabetes.

So what’s Fred doing now? A lot is the answer. Fred and I met at the International Diabetes Federation Young Leaders in Diabetes Program (YLD), as a part of Team Type 12 in Australia. In addition, Fred pitched an idea, developed late into the night at the Ibis Hotel, to bring Medtronic and Insulin Pump Therapy to Ghana. Like a boss, he strolled up to the meeting, pitched his idea and now the first steps in making this idea into a reality are coming to fruition in Ghana. Next, Fred is creating an organization to empower people living with diabetes in Ghana while building awareness on our disease at the local level through dance, culture and food. In addition to these projects, Fred is the chair of the African region for the YLD and orchestrating several marathons, diabetes events and documenting several young leaders stories in 2015.

Fred’s friendship is that of consistency and strength. We have only been friends for a couple of months, but it feels like it has been years. When he speaks it comes from deep thought and compassion, when he jokes it comes from a need to lighten the situation. His leadership is still in the infancy stage, but I believe he can be way more then Ghana’s first child to live to adulthood with diabetes. He can be the Nelson Mandela of diabetes care equality for the entire globe and DASH is thrilled to aid him in anyway on his journey.

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(Pictured left to right: Anita (Indonesia), Widny (Haiti), Wasam (Pakistan, HOF Cricket), Romel (Trinidad), me, Fred, Keagan (South Africa) and Sana (Pakistan)

More international stories of people thriving with diabetes to come, so stay tuned.

 

Sincerely,

Lucas Fogarty

DASH Sports Education

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