'It's my own fault, I have no one else to blame' - Paul (53) on losing his leg to diabetes
Paul Kenny lost his leg to complications from type 2 diabetes but he said it could have been avoided if he hadn't ignored the symptoms.
"It's my own fault. I have no one else to blame and I've no problem saying that," he told Independent.ie.
When the father-of-three was initially tested at a Diabetes Ireland public screening in Tesco, Bray in April 2008, his glucose reading was 27 (normal glucose range is between 4-7mmol/L).
"The nurse got the fright of her life when she saw my reading. She told me to go to the hospital straight away," said Paul.
Two days later he attended Loughlinstown hospital and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The 53-year-old had been experiencing "unquenchable" thirst for a long time, had gained weight and found himself becoming increasingly tired after work; often falling into a deep sleep for one or two hours during the day.
"I just chalked these symptoms down to getting older. I really didn't think anything of it. I work as a chef so I assumed the long hours in the kitchen were taking their toll," he explained.
Even after his diagnosis Paul was in denial about the condition and didn't take it seriously.
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"I took the tablets on and off. I thought I was feeling better. I stopped testing my blood regularly and went back to my old lifestyle.
"I was drinking two litres of fizzy drinks a day. I was addicited. I just wasn't looking after myself at all," he said.
As a result, Paul lost his big toe in December 2014 but returned to work after six weeks. He made big changes to his lifestyle and diet and his blood glucose readings started to improve.
He was doing less damage to his body but Paul found it challenging to embrace his new lifestyle wholeheartedly and in December 2015 he had to have his right leg amputated.
Finally, the reality hit home.
"The doctor came to me and said that they had exhausted every option when it came to saving my leg. The only thing to do was to amputate it from below the knee. At that stage I just thought 'If it has to be done then so be it'".
Paul said that losing a limb was a "double-edged sword".
"It didn't just affect me, it affected my family too. It was hard for them to see me without my leg. It really impacted them emotionally... it was traumatic."
However the Wicklow man was determined to change his diet, take his medication, monitor his bloods and get back to work straight away.
"I'm stubborn when I put my mind to things. I wanted to get back up on my feet... well, my foot, and continue to live my life."
Paul is coping well and gets around with the use of a wheelchair and, occasionally, hands-free crutches. His positive and straightforward outlook has helped but he said he still regrets not taking his condition seriously and ignoring the symptoms.
As well as losing his right leg, Paul also lost his teeth within two years, something he deeply regrets as he admitted he once had a "fine set of choppers".
"I'm urging people to not be an eejit like me. I don't want anyone else to make the same mistakes I made. Know the risk factors, know the symptoms and get tested. It only takes a few minutes out of your day.
"It's a condition that can be well-managed and you can live a normal life but I didn't take it seriously and it really is all my fault."
Paul recently appeared on Operation Transformation last week to highlight the damage that unhealthy habits and lifestyles can cause.
According to Diabetes Ireland, there are 854,165 adults over 40 years of age in Ireland at increased risk of developing (or have) Type 2 diabetes 1 and over 1.1 million adults that need to change their diet and exercise habits in order to avoid chronic disease.
In 2015, 451 people with diabetes lost a lower limb due to complications with the condition and one person goes blind every week in Ireland because of diabetes.
MSD and Diabetes Ireland are currently running a nationwide diabetes screening roadshow at 23 pharmacies throughout Ireland. Click here to find your nearest participating pharmacy.