Ben Raises Importance of Diabetic Foot Care

Ben Harris, 43, SportsAble’s Community Fundraiser, spoke to around 70 local diabetes patients on World Diabetes Day (Nov 14) to raise awareness of the importance of regular foot care and how his own negligence led to him requiring a double-leg amputation.

Delegates at the event learnt that there are 6000 diabetes related amputations in the UK every year and 80% of these are preventable if patients take care of their health.

Ben, who lives in Slough, recounted how ignoring a minor diabetes-related foot complaint led to him having three years of treatment for an ulcer that had formed on the joint of his big toe. Despite the intensive treatment, Ben’s right leg had to be amputated in 2012 when he was 36.

Last year Ben had his left leg amputated and has also suffered sight loss due to diabetic retinopathy.

Ben, 43, who works for local charity, SportsAble, said: “I was really pleased to speak at this important foot care event to tell my story and help raise awareness about diabetes. They diagnosed me with Type 2 diabetes when I was just 18. I didn’t take my condition seriously, I ignored the advice they gave me and when I developed a small laceration on my foot, I didn’t realise how dangerous that would be.

“I’ve had both legs amputated since then and nothing prepares you for that. The biggest challenge has been mentally getting my head round a life-changing problem. My podiatrist, Angela Walker, has been a huge inspiration. Her dedication to the cause, her expertise and, after 18 years of treatment we’ve become good friends. She has been a great support to my family including teaching my 12-year-old about foot care and understanding what to look for.

“Getting active again has also been hugely important to my health and well-being and I credit SportsAble with saving my life both physically and mentally. Not only can I play wheelchair basketball, I socialise in a Club where disability is the norm and everyone talks about what they can do, not what they can’t.”

Ben said: “My advice is this: always keep an eye on your feet if you have diabetes. Make sure you have no defects or injuries to your feet as diabetic feet are notoriously bad for healing. Get your doctor to refer you for a 6-month podiatry appointment to check on your feet. Watch out for the deadly blister.”

People attending the event also heard from Jean Nixon, Vascular Nurse and Denise Vick, Podiatry Assistant, who are part of the multidisciplinary diabetic foot team at Wexham Park Hospital, about how diabetes can affect your feet and the importance of good footwear.

Angela Walker, a Diabetes Specialist Podiatrist at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, who gave a talk at the workshop, said: “I feel it is important for health care professionals who treat patients with diabetic foot ulcers to refer early as early intervention leads to a more successful result for the patient. The emphasis on patients attending their annual diabetic foot review and understanding their own diabetic foot risk status is essential. Patients with diabetes have a whole team dedicated to looking after their feet if they have a problem. Working in a multidisciplinary diabetic foot team provides a ‘one stop’ shop of care.”

Jill Steaton, Regional Manager in the South East for Diabetes UK, said: “A single preventable amputation is one too many. This event not only gives people with diabetes the practical advice and information about how to look after their feel, but will also help them understand what healthcare they should be getting.”

Around 70 local people living with diabetes attended the foot care event in Windsor, organised by Diabetes UK, together with Podiatry, Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust.

 To find out more about taking care of your feet, visit https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications/feet/taking-care-of-your-feet