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Life as a diabetic amputee

Anyone who meets Salih Hendricks loves him. It’s impossible not to – he’s a kind and generous soul, quick to smile and share his wisdom. He’s also a diabetic amputee, and has been sharing his journey and challenges for the past few years.. We asked Salih to tell his story, here.

Could you tell us your diagnosis story?

I was 12 years old when I was diagnosed with Diabetes Insipidus. It shares the same symptoms as diabetes mellitus, though it is not related to Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. I had started having kidney problems and I urinated a lot. I was treated with a hormone therapy, which I was on for about 4 years. At 17 years, when I started college and on my way to class, I had a blackout and woke up in hospital, having been in a semi coma for 2 days. I was told that I now had Type 1 diabetes.

What do you wish you had known when you were diagnosed?

Well at age 12 you do not think much of it, except for your parents who are more concerned with you getting better.

But having a diabetic kidney specialist like Prof Keaton at that time, and how he educated and supported me at 17 about diabetes was very enlightening for my journey up till now

Could you tell us about your amputee journey?

I had my amputation in 2020, but the years leading up to 2020 were painful. Four years prior, I was in excruciating pain with every step I took. All my checks just led to getting painkillers to relieve the pain and no further screening or vascular scanning was done. Before my amputation, I had a leg bypass and  2 weeks later stents were inserted. I will not blame anyone, but my health improved after the amputation.

I had anxiety and depression as I cried a lot, but my independence drove me beyond the edge to achieve my goals, and another powerful force overcame me to go into the complications and prevention side of diabetes. I have shared my journey all over the world as a diabetic amputee.

What is the hardest part about being a diabetic amputee?

The lonely nights when you overthink how people will accept you. The stigma, body image and the whole baggage you have with diabetes. The hardest part? Losing your whole family due to diabetes and working in the community of the poor and seeing how they suffer due to lack of access to healthcare.

How do you maintain a positive attitude while living with diabetes complications?

I have accepted it and diabetes is me. There is no separation so inclusion plays a big part in how I live my life with all the complications.

Diabetes is a blessing for me and I’m grateful for it as it has taken me around the world spreading awareness.

What would you say to someone who is struggling with their diabetes?

Motivating someone in life is showing them the positive side of life and not wanting what the next person has.

Diabetes becomes the monster if you allow it, and thinking about it all the time will drive you crazy. So in all my coaching sessions for young and old I tell them: don’t think diabetes, live it.

Salih Hendricks

You are an active diabetes advocate – how did you get into that?

40 years of being diabetic and coping with the changes over time and doing community work for the last 27 years in diabetes care has been overwhelming. But that is what has kept me going, being original with all my awareness and content.

During the 90’s I spoke at hospitals raising awareness and I enjoyed it. I started a peer support initiative and then continued throughout the years. Sharing my journey on Facebook from 2009 and moving onto other social media platforms has made a huge difference. Also belonging to different diabetic groups around the world has given me another type of lived experience.

“We are all humans firstly and being part of different communities around the world should teach us that we should care for each other more because of that bond, no matter how different we are.”

Salih Hendricks

What makes your life sweet?

Good friendships, good conversations, a cup of coffee with a friend and including everyone with respect. Sitting on the sidewalk and sharing my sandwich with a stranger.

What to read next?

Diabetes and male complications: One of the things we don’t talk about enough is diabetes and male complications. We want to be telling all the diabetes stories in South Africa – representing all the various lived experiences of people with diabetes. Gavin van Wyk shares his story.

What are diabetes complications? A helpful list of symptoms: Diabetes complications are one of those things none of us wants to think about. The good news is that with careful diabetes management, regular doctor’s visits and knowing what to look out for, you’re able to slow down – and even sometimes reverse – diabetes-related complications.

What has diabetes taught you?: So we have gathered all of your feedback about what has diabetes taught you.

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.