Long road of rehab after amputation

A finger prick test shows a normal sugar level reading.

A New Lentegeur man, who was diagnosed with diabetes more than 20 years ago, has had to make managing his disease, a way of life.

Willem Gelant, 53, who had both his legs amputated two years ago, has to watch his diet, exercise and see his doctor regularly.

Mr Gelant said diabetes, a group of diseases that result in too much sugar in the blood (high blood glucose), was in his genes, with three of his eight surviving siblings also having been diagnosed.

Mr Gelant was diagnosed during a monthly wellness session at work in the late 1990s, with a sugar reading of 20. The average reading should not exceed 11.1mmol/* (millimoles per litre).

The next day he attended Hanover Park Community Health Centre (CHC), where he was prescribed Metformin, a first-line medication for the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

Then, two years ago the self-confessed workaholic who worked his way up to management for a large food chain store, failed to take a bump against his foot seriously.

“I was stressed and I knocked my foot but took for granted it would heal,” he said.

Wounds of diabetics take longer to heal, than those of a person with balanced sugar levels, and the swelling of his toe became so severe that Mr Gelant struggled to walk. When he eventually went to see the doctor, he was referred to the hospital.

Within weeks, a toe on his left foot was amputated. A week later it was infected and it was decided to amputate his leg, just below the knee. He was sent to rehabilitation and shortly after, his right fore foot had to be amputated.

At home, two weeks later, he had to change the dressing and had a vacuum-like machine to clean out infections. However, gangrene, a condition that occurs when body tissue dies, set in and Mr Gelant was back in the operating theatre to have his right foot amputated but while in surgery the doctor advised his wife Bernie Gelant that they would have to amputate the lower leg, just below the knee.

She told the Plainsman it had been a long road to recovery but they had made it through with the help of God, pastor Chris Sloster, friends and family.

Today Mr Gelant is back at rehabilitation to adjust his prosthesis, attends diabetic club and also has his eyes checked regularly.

Ms Gelant has adapted the family’s eating plan and accompanies her husband to club meetings, where she is encouraged to ensure healthy living for all.