Wednesday 24 April 2019

'I inject myself just once a day and feel much better - I'm not so tired anymore and only have a quick nap'

Case study 2: Tom O'Brien suffers from Type 2 diabetes

Postman Tom O'Brien's health has improved since his diagnosis. Photo: Mark Condren
Postman Tom O'Brien's health has improved since his diagnosis. Photo: Mark Condren

Tom O'Brien from Longford has a long list of ailments - all of which made their presence felt when he gave up smoking around a decade ago. Along with haemochromatosis, cellulitis, low platelets and ulcers on his legs, the 56-year-old postman was also diagnosed with type 2 diabetes seven years ago. After losing three-and a half stone and taking medication, his health has improved, and Tom says remaining positive is the only way forward.

"I was 14 stone when I was a smoker and although I had a bad cough, I didn't really have any other problems that I was aware of. But when I stopped smoking and the tar cleared off my lungs, everything that was suppressed started to emerge," says Tom.

"I had a good deal of ailments, but when I started to feel tired, thirsty, full of aches and pains and always needing to go to the bathroom, I figured that I might have been diabetic, so I decided to go to the doctor about seven years ago.

"The doctor also thought the symptoms were classic diabetes. After doing a test, it was confirmed and the doctor said I would need to lose weight and take medication in order to have any quality of life.

"I was told to change my diet and eat less, so the first thing I started was eating off smaller plates. It took about a year-and a half, but I got down from 21-and-a-half stone to 18 stone - which I am now. And although I know I need to lose some more weight, it is a good start.

"Because I have ulcers on my legs, I can't really do much exercise as I can't put pressure on my feet, but I'm hoping that if I lose a couple more stone, I'll be able to get out and about more.

"After diagnosis, I was put on insulin, which was really great and made a big difference to me. I inject myself just once a day and feel much better - I'm not so tired anymore and will only have a quick nap after work. Before, I would fall asleep for up to two hours when I got in the door and sometimes I would even nod off during a conversation.

"Having diabetes isn't always easy and some people think they have failed because they are on medication for their whole life, but there is no shame in it. I had great support from the diabetic clinic in Mullingar and I would advise others to look for help if they need it, take medication as directed and just get on with their lives - it's not the end of the world."


* 1,000 new people are diagnosed every month in Ireland with type 2 diabetes, based on the number of people being screened by the Diabetic RetinaScreen - The National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme.

* One in 15 people in Ireland are living with diabetes and 10pc of this population has type 1 - an auto-immune, non-preventable condition. The remainder has type 2 diabetes, of which 85pc would be put into remission if they carry excess weight.

* It is unknown how many have prediabetes. Obesity and age both increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

* Following a healthy lifestyle, eating well, keeping weight within a healthy range for height and achieving the minimum physical activity guidelines can help reduce a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetic RetinaScreen – the HSE’s National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme offers free, annual screening for and treatment of diabetic retinopathy. The HSE is urging anyone living with Type 1 or 2 diabetes in Ireland, aged 12 years and over, to make sure they  register for free retinal screening on

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