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DISABILITIES

By Daniel J. Vance


Gunnard Ness of Fargo, North Dakota, has had diabetes for about 30 years.

“And my brother and I own eight community newspapers in northeast North Dakota,” said Ness, semi-retired now at age 76, in a recent telephone interview. His newspaper group has published this column off and on.

“Because of my diabetes, I take insulin twice daily and try to keep my diet right,” he said. “I'm married to a nurse well acquainted with diabetes. She decides the menu and I eat what she puts out.”

According to the American Diabetes Association website, diabetes is “a disease in which the body doesn't produce or properly use insulin.” It affects about 20 million Americans.

As for Ness due to diabetes, doctors in a series of operations beginning ten years ago first had to amputate several of his toes, then half his foot, and mostly recently in 1999 his leg below the knee. And three years ago he had heart by-pass surgery.

People with type 2 diabetes like Ness have an increased risk of developing heart disease, blindness, nerve damage and kidney damage.

“But I drive the car still,” he said of his daily routine. “My wife had two hip replacement surgeries, then fell and broke her kneecap. She can't drive our car anymore, so we get along well together. She's a hard-headed Norwegian like me. She doesn't get shook up (about our physical problems) too much. But she does use a cane when walking outside.”

Two years ago, the Nesses moved to Fargo, and today live six blocks away from where Gunnard receives regular physical therapy. One elderly man he exercises with at physical therapy is missing both his hands and legs, and has prostheses on both legs.

Ness added, “Having an amputation isn't the end of the world. Recently, someone I know had a leg amputated. I made a point of going to the hospital to show her my prosthesis and how it wasn't bothering me. After talking, she began relaxing about her situation a bit. Doctors can say that you will be all right after an amputation, but the point gets across better when coming from someone who has been through it.”

He emphasized that medical facilities ought to do far more for recent amputees, including matching them up with more veteran amputees in order to help ease the transition.

For more, see www.diabetes.org or danieljvance.com. (This column made possible by a grant from Blue Valley Sod, www.bluevalleysod.com)