Σάββατο, 17 Σεπτεμβρίου 2011

About Me...


I have been a diabetic for 26 years now. I was diagnosed as a child, but along the way, doctors discovered a few other health issues: autoimmune thyroiditis, diabulimia, depression, anaemia. I have three diagnosed diabetes complications to deal with: gastroparesis (due to neuropathy), diabetic mastopathy and frozen shoulder. I have worked in Costumer’s Service for 15 years and I am working towards a university degree in Psychology. Right now, I take insulin shots but I’d like to be on the pump, hopefully within the year. My main goal in life is to educate people about diabetes and create awareness about its complications. So I created my blog (http:// sweetlife-gr.blogspot.com). For the past 6 years I support diabetics in my country, by blogging about my life. I also write short stories (since I was six). A few of them are published at Greek media (newspaper portals), via internet. My focus is on people that have to deal with diabetes, cancer or depression and how they cope with that, in their everyday life.
It is estimated that the prevalence of diabetes in Greece (both type 1 and type 2) is approximately 8% of the general population. This amounts to 800.000 people. 80 thousand of us had been diagnosed with type1 diabetes. Health care is provided by hospitals and private doctors. We see our endocrinologist every month to get our prescribed insulins and every three months to check our A1c and any possible complications. We see all the other doctors (cardiologist, eye doctor) at least once a year to get our annual check up. Our goal is to have the A1c bellow 7, although this goal is met by less than 20% of type 1 diabetics. Over the last thirty years, the number of diabetics in Greece has at least quadrupled.  Many of them don’t even know they have diabetes, or choose to ignore the symptoms. That is why is imperative for Greek people to have a broader view of the matter. Sadly, in our society, we have not fully understood what diabetes really means and what its complications are. The reason resides in poor health education. There is a lot of misunderstanding on that matter, because people don’t usually acknowledge diabetes as a debilitating disease, but as a fact of life, that happens anyway when you get older. This belief makes the lives of type 1 diabetics difficult (especially young adults who work) because they are treated like they are invisible, either by society or by the healthcare system.
There are 3 major state health care providers, in Greece. Workers are required to pay for their insurance, along with their employers. Hospitals are part of the National Healthcare System but appointments are like hell, so hard to get one. Private practice doctors get a lot of work done, for those who can afford it. All types of insulin are fully covered by insurance, but we pay 25% of the cost of our diabetic supplies (meters, sticks, pumps, transmitters).
We use meters to measure our blood sugar and analog insulins in prefilled pens. But the use of insulin pumps and CGM’s isn’t as widely spread as it is in Europe and America. This has everything to do with the cost of the devices, that isn’t fully covered by any health insurance. There are pumpers in Greece, but they are only 10% of our diabetic community. It isn’t easy to get a pump, because we need to have a reference letter from a hospital doctor, and an approval by a health committee, that usually consists of officials and doctors. There is a lot of red tape concerning the reimbursement procedure, too. I am afraid the system is so slow, that it can be months before we can get back the money we paid for diabetes supplies. So people get somewhat discouraged, while they should focus their efforts in managing their diabetes.
There are a couple of organizations for people with diabetes in Greece. Doctors exchange opinions, knowledge and organize educational seminars in GDS, while people with diabetes can join the “Fight against Juvenile Diabetes” community, in every major city. Their purpose is mainly to educate, but not to support.
Right now, Greece is in a very difficult economic situation. Unemployment has reached 25% and cuts have been made in health care expenses. People with diabetes are living in a highly insecure environment, and trying to make ends meet. Many people, having lost their jobs, have no insurance at all, and don’t have access to all the benefits that are available (healthcare, new treatments). So they have to pay for insulin, as well as supplies, doctors’ appointments and their lab work. The cost is over 600 euros per month. It is a gloomy reality, that every day gets darker and more frustrating…I wish we could be more organized, have better health education and spend more money in our health care system. In Greece, we need to be much more considering about people in need. 
As far as research in Greece is concerned, I recently discovered that a group of researchers from the Institute of Biology (“Democritus” Research Center) found a marker, called “prosort”. This marker, found in the blood of people with diabetes, is used to indicate faulty production of a certain protein in the surface of kidney cells. That can help in the early detection of both diabetic retinopathy and nephropathy. Also, a Greek researcher, Iphigenia Economopoulos, was in charge of a group of scientists that manage to create, in vitro, pancreatic and liver cells from embryonic skin cells. Most promising!


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