When Darwin Lussman was in the Armed Forces, he followed a regimented daily routine meant to keep him and other soldiers alert and ready to fight each and every day.
Lussman, the leader of the Storm Lake AmVets Honor Guard, still follows a regimented schedule today in order to wage an important battle against a different type of foe: diabetes.
The retired farmer, who lives with wife Joanne six miles northeast of Storm Lake, is one of 17 million people nationwide who suffer from diabetes, a condition characterized by high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in the production of insulin, a substance which regulates the body's use of glucose. Without insulin, cells are unable to use glucose in sugary and starchy food for energy because the body is unable to burn the glucose effectively, resulting in dangerously low levels of energy for those who leave the disease untreated.
Lussman said he was shocked when he was diagnosed with the condition in 1970, as he did not have a prominent family history of the disease.
"I didn't really know anything about it because nobody in my immediate family had it," Lussman said. "It was a complete unknown for me."
After being diagnosed, Lussman began changing his diet to include more fresh fruits and vegetables and lower portions of foods high in saturated fat, and also began to visit more specialists with Joanne, as the couple tried to learn all they could about the disease.
"At first we went to our family doctor for help with this, and now we have a family of doctors," Joanne said. "Finding good people to help you out is something that's important, and we knew that we needed to know as much about this as possible."
In addition to maintaining the high-exercise, high manual labor lifestyle typical of farmers, Lussman also implemented a regimented daily routine of medications and meals, a schedule helping him keep healthy blood sugar levels.
Lussman begins each day by taking one tablet at 6:45 a.m., and also takes medicine to help prevent any problems with his kidney and heart that could result from the diabetes at that time. After breakfast at 7 a.m., he has a snack at 9:30 a.m., lunch at noon, another small meal at 3:30, supper at 6 p.m. and another night snack at 9:30 p.m. He then ends each day by drawing 20 units of Lantus, a slow release 24-hour insulin which prevents problems from happening during the night.
Lussman also takes four shots per day, including a shot of insulin hemolog with each meal. He then uses an Accu-Check monitor two hours after each meal in order to test his blood sugar to see if the levels are too high, and records the date, time and results of each Accu-Check in a written log. He must also take a blood panel test every two months to further monitor and ensure his blood sugar levels are healthy.
While Lussman said keeping the schedule does take a lot of dedication and work, he said it is worth it to stay healthy.
"If you want to stay out of trouble you follow the schedule religiously, because it is something that you need to do," Lussman said. "It's a battle every day."
Lussman also must be constantly aware of where his hands and toes are at all times, as the diabetes has caused a lack of sensation in the extremities. Studies from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimate 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage, and Lussman said that has caused him to be careful in all of his manual activities.
"You have to watch for problems because you can't feel it, so I'm very careful around power tools and welding items," Lussman said. "Since you can't feel anything you can burn yourself or hurt your fingers or toes without knowing it, so I have to be constantly on guard for that."
While diabetes has forced Lussman to maintain a strict daily routine, it has not altered a positive outlook on life, one he said has helped him battle diabetes successfully for so many years.
"You learn how to handle it," Lussman said. "I stay active and live my life with this. I'm not just going to sit by the window and let diabetes prevent me from enjoying life at all."