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Don't Ignore Your Health!
Posted on Oct 28, 2011


My story as told to my long time friend Dr. John McElligott:

First let me tell you a bit of who I am--or better yet who or what I'm not. I'm not a doctor or health care pro; in fact I'm probably just like you in many ways. The good doctor asked me to tell of my journey leading up to my situation today in hopes that some of you can and will benefit from my experiences.

Prior to my initial diagnosis of having Type 2 Diabetes way back in the late 90's or early 2000, you would have been hard pressed to have found a more vibrant or engaging guy...shoot, I had it ALL. In guy speak, this meant having girl friends, a good job as an independent housing contractor, plenty of money--yep, I had it all--only to see it fade away in following years. My "Golden Days" were gone; the bad economy was winning. My health was getting worse, too. Oh, as usual, even in desperate times, I thought I was invincible and that nothing could slow me down. I was bullet-proof and too head strong to listen to others. It didn't take long for all this self-centered crap to turn on me. Soon the lousy economy killed most of my contracting work, it became very hard to find work. With no other real skills my days looked very dreary, but just as things seemed their darkest, my friend James offered me a job driving a truck in his produce business.

This was my entry in 2003 into my new career as a van hauler but due to my poor health (Diabetes), I lasted just 6 short years. My decline started with my legs (feet); they became so weak and numb that standing and or driving caused unbearable pain! Dr. John and other medical folks warned me that continued standing or any undue pressure on my legs could lead to loss of one or both legs. This possible danger to my overall health led to my retirement as a van hauler in 2009.

I was alone by this time. It was now all up to me to figure this out, a guy who wouldn't or couldn't recognize his own poor health issues. I still did not follow doctor’s orders, I knew more than they did....yeah right! Always independent of others' advice, always living and doing as I please, my avoided and ill-managed health concerns were starting to ravage my body.

Since I and many of you are plagued by poor health such as Diabetes, let's start there. Diabetes is a terrible disease. It doesn't hurt so you may not even be aware that you have it. Diabetes can destroy your organs causing heart failure, liver damage, eye sight problems and amputation. You could end up like me, an amputee rolling around in a wheelchair, having to depend on others for many things. Amputation is a life changer!

If you care for yourself on a regular basis, that may not prevent the onset of some bad disease but proper self-help may be your ticket to a cure or at least an ability to manage your sickness. Don't let a hard-headed attitude rob you of living healthy. Don't think you know more than the pros; you DON'T ! Assume the worst and expect the best. If you don't take care of YOU no one else will, it's up to you!

You don't have to end up like me. Don't be a hard ass, if you need help you can find it, even if you have little or no insurance The St. Christopher Fund can help you as they did me. You don't have to go it alone. Reach out, help is available, no matter your problem.

Now consider this, because I was so sure that I knew my body better than anyone, I really thought I was bullet-proof, ignoring all the warning signs of impending poor health, and now I'm paying the price. After being diagnosed as Diabetic, I was burdened with a heart attack, a double by-pass on my left leg to increase blood flow, followed by many months of recovery, two strokes leading up to my current condition. I am a 66 year old male with no insurance but Medicare, living now in a 600 sq/ft apartment as an amputee of my right leg! Since I lost my leg, I have only had 2 visitors, besides my sister, and that was my friend James who hired me as a truck driver and Dr. John.

It's not too late; it ain't over 'til they're kickin' dirt in your face. Don't ignore your health; bad stuff can sneak up on you in a hurry. Get help. You can't go it alone and there’s no shame in asking for help. Maybe you think you are ok now and maybe you are but remember ill health can and does at one time or another strike fast and hard, so why take the risk? Don't press your luck, man- or woman-up and from now on promise you that you will take care of YOU!

Thank you Dr. John for the house call and the help from St. Christopher for letting me speak to your trucker friends.

Jimmy McClendon (Jimmy Mac)

[email protected] – If you are diabetic and need advice you can email me.

Yes, Virginia, there is life after "My Story." Many of you read the story of my life and struggles in the story above, a depiction of early diagnosis of type 2 Diabetes up to my current situation of an elderly amputee. Not to discount the pain and frustrations of living as a wheelchair bound amputee but just to let you know that even though I ignored and failed to heed the warning signs of impending poor health, it wasn't neccessarily a death sentence. No, I'm not suggesting that you should't be your own best friend and take the lead in monitoring and getting help if needed in order to preserve and protect your own best health--you must look after and care for you, 'cause no one else will--but it's not all for naught.
It's all a crap shoot you can wallow in self pity or learn to accept your new situation and try to move forward and learn new life skills that can enhance and promote a new "you."  It ain't easy, but who amongst us was ever promised "it" would be easy? We all wrestle with life's daily challenges, sometimes losing but sometimes winning. Isn't that what all of us live for, those winning moments?  They don't need be huge, just an occassional WIN!
I know I've come to appreciate my "new" life. It's brought me a wealth of friends who have given me unexplainable courage and hope, a renewed sense of self and a vast world of exciting possibilities. To my many friends I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I wish there were a stronger word that expressed my true feelings, but all I can think of is THANK YOU!!
So you see Virginia there is life after amputation. If you've been ignoring the warning signs, if you've lived a life of denial, it's never too late to talk it out and tell "Your Story" of victory over ill health. Save the health or life of one fellow human, it's worth it!


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