Diabetes-related amputations on the rise in the Hunter

Life-changing: Don Harris urges other diabetics to seek early treatment after both of his legs were removed due to complications. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.


DON Harris knows a thing or two about what can happen when Type 2 diabetes isn’t treated early and correctly.

The Salamander Bay resident and Type 2 diabetichas had both of his legs removeddue to complications associated withthe chronic, progressivedisease.

Hisright legwas removed in July, 2013, and his left in January, 2015.

“The doctor said if they didn’t cut my leg off I was going to die,” Mr Harris said.

“Shedidn’t sugar coat it.”

Mr Harris, who has a family history of Type 2 diabetes,was firstdiagnosedafter a heart attack in 1996.

“They had me on medication and diet control, but the tablets weren’t doing what they were supposed to do, and it turned outI was on the wrong medication for about eight years,” he said.

Following a second heart attack in 2009, the former builder’s labourerhad six heart bypasses.

“That’s when they checked my insulin out and decided to change my medication. But it was too little, too late.”

Wearing aT-shirt that said, “Well cut off my legs and call me shorty,” Mr Harris, 60,explainedto The Heraldthat his sense of humour was one of the things thatgothim through some difficult and painful years.

Music was another.

“I was devastated,” he said.

“I was sitting in a hospital room looking out the window andlistening to music when Herbie Hancock and John Legend’s song Don’t Give Up came on. It came on at just the right time,because I was giving up.”

The Heraldrecently reported that diabetes-related amputations were on the rise in the Hunter, with two to three fingers, toes or feet, removed each week in a losing battle against Australia’s fastest-growingdisease.

According to NSW Health data,the Hunter hassome of the highest rates of diabetes-related hospitalisations in NSW.

Mr Harrishoped sharing his story would encourage others toseek advice andtreatment early.

“Like me, a lot of people can be ignorant about these things.Mine was a worse-case scenario, but if you don’t do anythingabout it, no one will. I think if I’d asked more questions earlier, I wouldstill have mylegs.”