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‘Put Your Foot Down’ campaign begins

Diabetes patient Ruth Lumpkin, right, shares her experiences on diabetic peripheral neuropathy Thursday at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. Listening to Lumpkin are, from left, State Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard and Dr. Edward Bass of Phoebe Worth.

Diabetes patient Ruth Lumpkin, right, shares her experiences on diabetic peripheral neuropathy Thursday at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. Listening to Lumpkin are, from left, State Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard and Dr. Edward Bass of Phoebe Worth.

ALBANY — Area legislators and health officials gathered Thursday to push a cause to stamp out a disease considered life-threatening to many in the region.

State Reps. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, and Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, were at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital on Thursday to present a resolution declaring the day Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Day as part of the “Put Your Foot Down” campaign to help battle the condition in Georgia.

Rynders said that roughly 25 percent of Georgians are receiving some sort of benefits from the state to receive diabetes care, indicating a strain on health care dollars associated with the condition.

“That leaves the state with a huge financial interest in (diabetes prevention and treatment), but there is a human impact, and it is getting worse,” he said.” ... Diabetic peripheral neuropathy may be an obscure term, but it is widespread.”

Diabetic neuropathy is characterized as nerve damage that takes place over time in those with diabetes, often caused by metabolic factors such as high blood sugar. Peripheral neuropathy is defined as nerve damage to the arms and legs, most often occurring in feet and legs first.

Dukes is among those who have seen the impact diabetes can have on a person, having witnessed a parent go through it.

“It was not with any reservations, when the opportunity came to recognize it...it was something we wholeheartedly support,” he said.

Ruth Lumpkin, a former Worth County teacher, was at the event to give a personal perspective on the subject, having suffered through diabetic peripheral neuropathy following her diagnosis with Type 2 diabetes in 1991.

Coming from a family in which diabetes is prevalent, Lumpkin was instilled with the knowledge of healthy eating habits early on. Now being a diabetic herself she not only strives to taking a proactive approach to watching out for her own health, but has become a strong advocate for her peers when it comes to addressing the signs and symptoms early.

“You have to help yourself. The doctor can only do so much,” she said. “I enjoy leaving. I don’t stay in the street, as they say, but I don’t stay home,” she said. “...My friends know I will tell them to let their doctor know what’s wrong. They don’t want to do it, so I go with them and tell it all.”

The Online Analytical Statistical Information System, an online database maintained by the Georgia Department of Public Health, shows that there were 150 deaths in 2011 associated with diabetes within the Southwest Public Health District.

Of those, 44 deaths were in Dougherty County.

Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard was also in attendance at the proclamation Wednesday to speak to the significance such a campaign would have in the area.

“It is no understatement that this is a massive and growing epidemic in the state,” she said.

Officials say that Phoebe, along with U Save It Pharmacy, Albany Area Primary Health Care, Welforce and MillerCoors, are among the agencies partnering with the state in raising awareness for the cause.