Almost losing a foot gave right motivation

Rabah Abdelrahman will remember 2010 as the year that he was reminded not to let his guard down after 27 years of managing his condition.

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AJMAN // Rabah Abdelrahman will remember 2010 as the year he almost lost his right foot.

The 55-year-old Jordanian was told by three doctors that the black spot on the bottom of his foot meant that gangrene had set in, and that an amputation was inevitable.

"I just couldn't accept it, so I kept going from doctor to doctor, trying to find someone who would offer me another alternative," he said.

After 27 years of living with diabetes - 24 of those in the UAE - Mr Abdelrahman, who runs a tourism company in Ajman, thought he had good control of his condition.

"I read a lot about diabetes and about all the complications that it can cause if I don't control my blood sugar level, but I never really paid attention to my feet."

In 2005, he began losing the sight in his left eye. "It started with blurred vision, and ended with surgery. I'm OK now, but with diabetes, you never know when it will strike."

Two months ago, it struck again when he stepped on a pin. He developed a callus, which he treated with rubbing alcohol, but it soon grew more painful and he developed a limp. Pills, antibiotics and creams all failed to prevent a black spot the size of a dirham. Finally he went to the Rashid Centre for Diabetes and Research at Sheikh Khalifa Hospital, where Dr Timothy Fisher was able to treat and save his foot.

He was also taught to check his feet daily, to stop by the clinic every two days for three weeks to get his dressings changed, to make sure his feet were always rubbed dry after ablution and to check regularly for scratches or injuries. He also stopped wearing his usual slippers, opting for medical shoes instead.

Now, as the honorary president for Ajman's diabetes volunteer association, Mr Abdelrahman has begun planning a series of lectures, to teach others how to live long lives with complication-free diabetes.

"I have had diabetes for 27 years - I am sure no one in the UAE has had diabetes as long as me, so I have to be extra careful," he said. "These feet need to last me a lifetime."