We are celebrating World Diabetes Day with DSA National Chairman Martin Prinsloo

We are celebrating World Diabetes Day with DSA National Chairman Martin Prinsloo

Today it is my pleasure and privilege to introduce to you Martin Prinsloo. Retired but still busy and active. With plenty of experience in First Aid and was in the medical section of the Defense Force. His interest in Diabetes got sparked when his younger daughter was diagnosed with type1 Diabetes in 1988. That paved his way to becoming chairman of the Port Elizabeth Branch of Diabetes SA for many years, and he is currently serving his third year as the Diabetes South Africa (DSA) National Chairman. His passion for helping people, especially those with Diabetes, has been his driving force.

1. Greetings, Martin; thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview with us. Firstly, I am so curious about what sparked your passion for being part of the fight against diabetes.

My daughter was diagnosed as T1 diabetic in 1988 and we, my wife and I, knew nothing about diabetes. That was the beginning of finding out more about the condition and how to cope with the treatment. I became involved with Diabetes South Africa, starting as a Librarian and ended up as the Chairman of the Port Elizabeth branch of Diabetes SA, a position I held for over 20 years.

2. How would you describe diabetes to someone who doesn't have a clue about it?

Your body needs the hormone, insulin. to use the food, you eat. The insulin is made by the pancreas that sometimes stops working. If there is no insulin or not enough insulin you will starve as the cells in your body will not be able absorb the food. Diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar, however, overeating and becoming obese be a cause of diabetes.

3. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, 2, and gestational diabetes. Could you briefly tell us the differences between all these different types?

Type 1 usually develops in children but also occurs in adults. This is caused by the destruction of insulin producing cells due to an immune reaction. The onset is sudden. People with Type1 diabetes rely on multiple insulin injections every day for the rest of their lives.

Diabetes is not curable, but a chronic condition that is treatable.

Type 2 is when your body is incapable of using the insulin or unable to produce enough insulin mainly due to being overweight. The onset is gradual. Type2 diabetes usually occurs in people over the age of forty, but is occurring at an increasingly younger age as people’s lifestyles have changed, and many overeat and do very little exercise. Type 2’s takes tablets to control their diabetes but the doctor also sometimes prescribes insulin injections for better control.

Gestational Diabetes is also called: diabetes during pregnancy

A form of high blood sugar affecting pregnant women. If uncontrolled, high blood sugar can affect the pregnancy and the baby’s health. Those who develop gestational diabetes are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

4. Diabetes has been recognised as the most common reason behind the vast majority of deaths globally and in South Africa. There have been many claims that The South African Department of Health could perform better to prevent all these deaths caused by diabetes in the country. What advice would you give The Department of Health to fight against diabetes?

Firstly, the clinic sisters and nurses need to have more education about diabetes. The Health Department pharmacies, must order the stock in time so that there is always diabetes medication at the clinics for the patients with diabetes.  Many people have to walk far to get to the clinics or have to make use of expensive taxis and then wait in long queues only to be eventually told that the clinic is out of stock and they have to return another day.

There should be somebody to explain to the patients how and when to take their medications whether it is insulin or tablets. The patients also need to be told how important it is to take the medication exactly as the doctor has prescribed and that they have to take it day after day for the rest of their lives, unless the doctor tells them to stop. It is also of vital importance that the clinics supply their diabetic patients with testing strips and explain how to use these correctly. It is of vital importance for all people with diabetes to test their blood sugars regularly whether they are type1’s or Type 2’s.  Good control of diabetes will result in less complications and expenses of treating the results of uncontrolled diabetes.

5. There are cases of people losing their lives because of late diagnosis and, worst case scenario, not being diagnosed. People not understanding the core symptoms of diabetes could cause their death. So, could you share tips to help someone spot the symptoms of diabetes much more quickly?
  • Go to the toilet more often. WHY? This happens because your kidneys draw more water from your body to dilute and remove the glucose.
  • Are very thirsty? Because you pass a lot of urine you will become dehydrated and thirsty.
  • Lose weight without dieting. Your body cells get the energy they need from blood glucose. Because your cells won’t open up and take this blood glucose in, your cells can’t get energy and they starve. Your body tries to use other stores for energy and so you lose weight
  • Are very tired? Your body can not use the energy it needs from your food.
  • Are very hungry? This is because your body cells are starving.
  • Have a tingling feeling in feet and/or hands.
  • Have blurred vision. This is because the extra blood sugar in your eyes causes them to become swollen and unable to focus properly.
  • Itch and discharge in genital area and have sores that heal slowly. Your blood becomes thicker and unable to fight infections well. 

To summarise it, the following will be a good indicator: (a) if you are always thirsty and drink a lot of water; (b) if you go to the loo often during the night; (c) if you have an itchy skin; (d) if your eyes are losing their sight; (e) if your feet are giving problems suddenly. Go for a blood glucose test!

6. This year's World Diabetes Day theme is "education to protect tomorrow," what does that mean to Diabetes South Africa as an organisation and your community?

Firstly, a little about the International Diabetes Federation, (IDF) that is an umbrella organization of over 230 national diabetes associations in more than 160 countries and territories. The Federation has been leading the global diabetes community since 1950. It is headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, and was founded on 23 September 1950.

The South African Diabetes Association (as it was first called) was officially founded in 1969 and the National Office was established in Cape Town. Mid-1995 they relocated to Rosebank, Johannesburg. While there, the decision was made to change the name to Diabetes South Africa (DSA). Early in 2016 National office moved back to Cape Town to start another challenging but exciting chapter. We have been in existence for 53 years.   Education and Support is vital for people trying to manage their blood sugars every hour of every day all of their lives

Diabetes SA is a member of IDF operates under their guidance. IDF is an authority on Diabetes and their advice is trustworthy. Education and Support is vital for people trying to manage their blood sugars every hour of every day all of their lives.  Correct knowledge is power. When you have the right knowledge, there are higher chances that you make the correct choice that help you to control your diabetes. So, we at DSA relate to the theme “Education to protect tomorrow” and strive to empower people with the correct knowledge, as, a better understanding of diabetes and the treatment of diabetes will help prevent the nasty complications of uncontrolled diabetes.

7. As National Chairman, what are your key goals as a contributor to Diabetes SA and as an individual?

My key goals are to build DSA up to the organization that it was years ago, to have more branches and diabetes wellness groups where people can go and get information regarding the treatment and care of their diabetes. We would love to have the funds to financially help people with Diabetes, but we are a NPO and receive no Government funds, but rely on donations and membership fees. We have very few paid employees and the majority of our Management Boards are all volunteers. 

8. Part of the Associations mission is “Empowering all those affected by Diabetes through support, education and information” What initiatives does the Association have in place to achieve this?
  • A Youth and Children’s Outreach with camps, events, and fun activities designed to assist and educate parents and their Children with Type 1 diabetes.
  • Community Outreach throughout South Africa with Awareness Events and Testing.
  • A Diabetes SA Website     www.diabetessa.org.za    full of information on diabetes
  •  E-magazine DIABETES FOCUS free on the website
  • A HELPLINE on our website above for people with diabetes to contact if they have questions or concerns.
  • An endorsement programme approving products that are suitable for people with diabetes
  • Starting, monitoring and supporting Diabetes Community Wellness groups throughout S.A.
9. What is your view of having youth participating in this fight against diabetes and building careers in this cause?

I fully agree to the incorporation of the youth in the efforts to combat diabetes. We encourage the youth who have diabetes to become actively involved in Diabetes SA as they are the future leaders. We, in Port Elizabeth, have a group called the DSA Young Guns, and they are doing magnificent work in helping the Type1’s cope with living with Diabetes.

We also have a young adult Type1 who has been elected by the IDF to serve for two years as a Young Leader in Diabetes, (YLD).  He will be attending an IDF Training Seminar for YLD from all over the world, in Lisbon, Portugal from 5 to 9 December 2022.   

10. What should we expect from Diabetes SA for 2023?

We will continue with our efforts to curb diabetes by holding on-going Diabetes Awareness Campaigns and encouraging Healthy Lifestyles

We will continue and increase our efforts to offer and provide education, information, counselling and support to all those who have diabetes and their families in South Africa