Man with diabetes trifecta shares his story of complications to help others

SAN ANTONIO – Diabetes is a major reason people lose their vision or limbs or experience kidney failure, three complications that Joel Gonzalez, Jr. has dealt with in his life.

Gonzalez, 46, suffered a leg amputation, has lost most of his vision and was forced to have a kidney transplant three years ago.

“I thought I was going to die,” he said.

Gonzalez’s health problems developed after he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes more than 25 years ago.

Experts say high blood sugar levels over an extended period can damage blood vessels. If those aren’t properly working, blood can’t travel to the parts of the body that need it.

Also, a lack of insulin or efficient insulin can cause complications like kidney failure, adult-onset blindness, amputations, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and nerve damage.

Thankfully, Gonzalez received help at every turn. In 2021, Dr. Kelley Hitchman, director of the University Health Transplant Institute Lab, volunteered to donate her kidney. Unbeknownst to her, Gonzalez would be the recipient.

“He is an absolute blessing, and I think that’s a part of it that people don’t really think about. They think about the blessing for the recipient. And hopefully, it’s absolutely a blessing for the recipient. But at least in my circumstance, I feel like it was a huge gift in my life, too,” said Hitchman.

Gonzalez now looks forward to living a full life with his family. He hopes that the 16% of people in Bexar County with Type 2 diabetes learn from his experience.

“Take care of yourself. Take care of your body, because you’re gonna regret it in the long run. You don’t want to be in the position I [was in] … By the time you think something’s going on with [your] body, it’s going to be too late,” said Gonzalez.

If you’d like to become a living donor, click here.

For more about the Texas Diabetes Foundation, click here.

University Health also offers resources for kidney transplants.

Original News Source

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