“As a young man, I was told about the different complications of diabetes, but it never really sank in. I could never have imagined being sat here and reflecting on how it led to me losing a toe. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.”
Stuart Marlow is just one of the many diabetics living in Walsall who has suffered with foot problems as a result of diabetes, but hopes that by sharing his story, will make others think about their own foot care – before it’s too late!
Diagnosed as type two diabetic at 28-years-old, the condition has proved problematic for him in many ways; having affected his feet, legs and eyes. Despite being warned of the possible complications, he never dreamed of actually experiencing any of them.
“When you’re young, you are reckless and you don’t think about the consequences of your actions,” explained the 53-year-old. “I was advised to be careful with my diet and I wasn’t; I just ate and drank as I pleased.
“I also smoked for most of my adult life; right up until about three years ago and I had been told many times that it could hinder my blood flow and lead to vision loss or nerve damage. It was only when I started to feel unwell that I changed my habits but really you need to be preventing these things, not reacting to them, because often the damage is already done.”
The former ‘driver’s mate’ – a role that saw him unloading lorries full of goods for local businesses and supermarkets – has been retired for nearly 10 years now and believes part of the damage was caused by his steel toe-cap boots and being on his feet for hours on end.
“My feet were starting to get sore and the shoes I wore at home didn’t help. They were rubbing and it made them ache, but you assume that’s normal when you’re running around for most of the day.”
And in 2015, after a number of years of ignoring the dull ache in his feet, Stuart was forced to cut short a shopping trip around Birmingham after experiencing what he describes as ‘unbelievable pain’.
Taking a trip to his GP, the father of three was referred to Walsall Healthcare’s podiatry team where he was treated for a considerable infection on his right big toe, which had been severely worn down.
Three years on, Stuart is still having monthly visits to have the toe scraped (to continually remove the infection) and dressed every four weeks.
While he has little of his toe remaining, he has managed to hold onto his other toes with the regular rest and ‘air boots’ that are designed to support the feet.
When asked what he wishes he’d have done differently a few years ago, he replied: “I wish I’d have looked after myself properly in terms of diet and the smoking. I’m sure it didn’t help my circulation and that would have been a big part of the problem – the blood and calcium weren’t getting to my feet and so they began to get weaker.”
And having lost his older brother some years ago – aged just 47 – to complications of the disease, Stuart now recognises the sheer importance of looking after his feet.
“He was happy as Larry and had a positive attitude, but he didn’t look after himself properly.
“In the end his body was rife with infection and his kidneys were failing. He had lost his entire lower leg to infection as his diabetes had severely hindered his ability to heal quickly.”
“I’m relieved that I didn’t lose my foot completely, as I’m aware that happens to others, but now I’m battling with ulcers so the battle isn’t won yet.
“The podiatry team at Walsall Healthcare are fantastic and I urge other diabetics with foot problems just to take the professional’s advice and seek help as soon as they feel any pain or notice anything suspicious. Prevention is better than cure!” #Type2DiabetesPreventionWeek