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Double transplant patient on quest to educate young adults with diabetes

Double transplant patient on quest to educate young adults with diabetes

Even before his first transplant, Mike Davis knew the importance of self-care for diabetes. Now he wants to help coach others faced with the disease.

By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

Since the age of 12, when he was first introduced to the disease that produces too much sugar in his blood Mike Davis knew the triggers. He learned early the importance of managing diet, exercise, emotions, and medicine.

That first diagnosis steered Davis to a camp organized by the Diabetic Youth Foundation. As he got older, he joined the camp as a counselor and eventually a board member overseeing youth on excursions to Michigan, West Virginia and several trips to Russia. The camps were built around activities like zip lining, bicycling, hiking, and rafting. They were also built around educating teens with diabetes- teaching them about the care required to maintain a stable lifestyle. Davis spoke publicly about the repercussions of not managing diabetes.

“I thought as a kid if I had high blood pressure and it’s not hurting me now it was no big deal, but it catches up quicker than you know,” said Davis, 36. His youth was divided between living with his mom and stepfather and his grandparents. His mother died five years ago. Part of his focus when speaking to young adults is helping them realize that they can’t always depend on others to remind them to eat, exercise, and take their medicine.

This month during Diabetes Awareness Month healthcare providers and persons with diabetes want others to recognize the risks and symptoms of diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention risk factors for Type I diabetes include family history and age - children, teens and young adults are most likely to develop Type I diabetes. Risk factors for Type II diabetes include being overweight, over the age of 45, having a parent, brother, or sister with Type II diabetes, having physical exercise fewer than three times a week, and having a history of gestational diabetes. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, or Alaska natives are at a higher risk. Symptoms include frequent urination, frequent hunger and thirst, blurry vision, numbness or tingling of hands or feet, feelings of being tired, dry skin, sores that heal slowly and more infections than usual.

A graduate of Decatur Central High School Davis attended Ivy Tech and worked various jobs until his health declined.

“I was playing pool with friends when I started feeling lightheaded and shaky. My sugar was dropping. I drank a Sprite and then passed out and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance,” said Davis. His feet were swollen and he didn’t know it but his kidneys were shutting down. He went on dialysis. In June of 2016, under the care of IU Health Dr. John Powelson and Dr. Jonathan Fridell, Davis received a kidney and pancreas transplant. He was in and out of the hospital for about three months. First the kidney rejected and he went back on dialysis and insulin. On Easter weekend 2019, the pancreas rejected.

“At one point my blood sugar jumped to 1200. We thought I might die. For six months I lost my short-term memory,” said Davis. At his worst he was having regular seizures. He credits his grandparents, Bob and Sherrie Lane, for acting swiftly on his behalf calling 911 for hospital transport more times than he can count. To show their appreciation to the emergency responders his grandparents make it a tradition to deliver homemade Thanksgiving pies to the local paramedics and EMTs.

On January 23 Davis had his second double transplant. His recovery has been slow. Because of the diabetes, he suffered Charcot in his left foot, a weakening of the bones. He is now in rehab recovering from surgery.

“I am so thankful to Dr. Fridell. He never gave up on me and I could tell he really cared about me. He always said I was too young to have this many complications,” said Davis. Now, with a new kidney and pancreas Davis said he wants to give back to others. He’s working on starting a social media group to help others set goals and focus on their health. The name of the group “Livingpositivewithmysecondchanceatlife.”

Over the years, the friends he met at camp in his youth remain his closest friends. And along the way he has lost some friends too.

“Everyone tells me I’m so lucky to be here. I’ve lost six friends due to complications from diabetes,” said Davis. “I want to be an encourager and to let others know there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

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