A journey from patient to a Diabetes Educator
Article published in Pulse International

I am Erum Ghafoor, a Canadian certified Diabetes Educator, IDF-Expert Trainer for Conversation map tools in Pakistan and Faculty member of IDF (young leaders in diabetes). I am working as senior diabetes educator at Baqai Institute of Diabetology and Endocrinology (BIDE) for last 9 years but above all, I am a person with diabetes.

The journey from a diabetic patient to a diabetes educator had many twists and turns which I would like to share with the hope that it may be helpful for others. I was overweight in my teenage due to some medical reasons and always remained in search of slimming remedies. My family physician used to tell me that I had “insulin resistance” which I interpreted as “I had lot of insulin in my body which is not working properly”. Due to lack of education and awareness, my family assumed that having lot of insulin in my body means that I am protected from developing diabetes. Meanwhile, I came across a quack who told my family that with the use of honey I can be cured of all ailments. I followed him blindly consuming large amounts of honey every day and started losing weight for some time. Though I used to complain that I am feeling so weak, thirsty and urinated all the time but that quack told me, it’s fat which is getting out of my body and with that logic we all became relaxed. I checked my blood sugars after three weeks and glucometer showed me the reading of 567 mg/dL. I changed the glucometer and again a horrified number was in front of me. The next morning similar results were obtained from laboratory and I was diagnosed as having diabetes.

It was a very tough time for me. Although my father was a diabetic but nobody in my family knows much about diabetes. We all were so scared; I almost left my studies thinking that I was going to die soon. We immediately went to see Prof. Abdul Basit who was also treating my father at that time. I was in a denial phase, not accepting my diabetes. He listened to me very carefully and performed few tests confirming diabetes. I would never forget those moments when he broke the news, my parents were crying and my world turned into grey. The second bad news was that he wanted to put me on insulin. I instantly refused. We used to think that insulin means the last stage of the disease. I was very talkative and vibrant young lady but after diagnosis I became a silent introvert kind of person , I was in great mental stress , I kept thinking why I got diabetes , why me? , even I blamed my parents and God at that time.

On my second visit, my parents told everything to my doctor, he said Erum I know what state you are passing through but “why don’t you become someone who can help & feel the pain of other people with diabetes, Be a health care professional, a diabetes educator and help those who are like you, make your diabetes your strength rather than a weakness”. That was the turning point of my life.

I began the second phase of my journey towards becoming a certified diabetes educator. Since then I am studying and practicing. I have been trained in many other countries; represented Pakistan many times in international events and conferences. I have counselled more than 30,000 patients and I really love to be with them. Whenever I tell my patients that I myself have diabetes but is well controlled on insulin, it always lit up a hope in their eyes. I have trained more than 500 diabetes educators across the country. I deliver lectures on diabetes education for nurses, dietitians, pharmacist and doctors. People thinks diabetes is a curse but it’s in our hands to make it a blessing. I am an advocate of diabetes education and try my level best to become an example for others to follow.

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