Published: Monday, November 5, 2007
Learning of and living with diabetes
diabetes is America's fifth leading killer.
Last winter, members of the Columbiana County-based rock band Moment's Notice began noticing a change in their drummer and friend.
Normally witty and endearing, Charlie Lindesmith, 49, started coming to practice tired and grumpy. He complained of failing vision.
Something was wrong with Charlie.
For the band's bass guitarist, Joe Fabian, Lindesmith's complaints sounded all too familiar.
Fabian, 53, of Campbell, had been diagnosed with Type 2 adult-onset diabetes in 2001.
"We were sitting around talking at practice," said lead guitarist David Coleman, 54, of Lisbon. "Joe said, 'Hey listen, you might be diabetic and not know.'"
At their next practice Fabian brought his glucose meter.
Lindesmith's reading registered off-the-charts.
"It was 500," Lindesmith recalls, "That's as high as testers go."
A hospital visit confirmed the diagnosis. Lindesmith was reaching the late stages of the illness and lucky to be alive.
"If it wouldn't have been for Joe," said Lindesmith, a Salem resident, "I probably would have gone into a coma one night driving."
More than 20 million Americans suffer from diabetes. Nearly one-third, or 6.2 million people, have not been diagnosed, according to the American Diabetes Association.
The disease, which inhibits the production of insulin, interfering with sugar digestion, is on the rise in the U.S. because of surging obesity rates. It affects 7 percent of the population. An average of 4,110 new cases of diabetes are diagnosed daily.
Left untreated, the disease can be fatal. Though diabetes-related deaths are underreported because of the high proportion of undiagnosed cases, the disease is the nation's fifth leading killer, claiming about 225,000 lives annually.
According to Angela Russo of the ADA, many of the standard symptoms of diabetes were present in Lindesmith's case. Warning signs of Type 2 diabetes include blurred vision, frequent infections and tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.
Juvenile-onset, or Type 1, diabetes is often signaled by frequent urination, unusual thirst, extreme fatigue and irritability. All symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are also warning signs for the adult-onset version of the disease.
For Lindesmith, the most alarming sign of a problem was diabetes' effect on his eyes.
"For quite some time, I was feeling bad," he said. "My eyes were going bad, that was the biggest thing."
Lindesmith's eyesight was deteriorating so rapidly that he ordered glasses. By the time they arrived, 10 days later, the prescription was no longer strong enough, he said.
He was also waking to use the bathroom five times each night and drinking water constantly. He felt tired and irritable, even first thing in the morning.
Fortunately, diabetes is a treatable disease. Those with Type 1 must take regular insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes sufferers can often control the disease with diet and exercise and oral medication.
Thanks to medication and lifestyle changes, all members of Moment's Notice are rocking again.
They're back to holding practice Friday nights in Washingtonville and playing gigs in The Flying Pig in Salem, The End Zone in Washingtonville and Stephanie's Lounge in New Middletown.
Now that its drummer is feeling better, "even the band sounds better," said Lindesmith.
But Coleman hasn't forgotten that things could have been different.
"We could have lost our friend here," Coleman said. "He was dying and didn't know it."
For more information about diabetes, visit diabetes.org.