Randy Spinks can’t remember a time when he didn’t have to take insulin. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was four and was not expected to survive. It took six months in hospital to get him stabilized and it was rough going from then on.
“I went through school angry at life. I guess I felt I was being cheated of childhood because I always had to keep things in balance and have shots,” said Spinks, 53, who grew up in New Westminster and Surrey and moved to the Okanagan in his early 20s.
He made it through school and worked at a variety of jobs, including in restaurants, orchards and roofing although physical labour made keeping his diabetes in check more difficult.
He had an insulin pump from 1999 until a couple of years ago and has deep scars on his back where placement had to be changed regularly, but the pump did make regulation easier. He still had to calculate his food intake and adjust the insulin.
Spinks has some other scars, from the laser surgery on his eyes, a complication of diabetes, and his May 2015 quadruple bypass heart surgery.
“They say I am recovering well but it is stress on my body and makes it hard to keep the blood sugar right,” he said. “I’m back to six injections a day and having to check my blood four times a day and carry shots and sugar tablets with me wherever I go. I now have loss of hand strength and neuropathy of my feet, that means the nerves are starting to die off.”
While Spinks has learned to adjust and appreciate each day, his life would be made much better with a new insulin pump, which is smaller, can be placed anywhere on the body and can be programmed for the individual to automatically keep the correct flow of insulin 24 hours a day. The cost of a pump is $8,000, covered by medical insurance for people up to age 25 but for Spinks, who is now on a disability pension, it’s out of reach.
Friends are doing fundraisers and he is on Go Fund Me, a site which lets people make donations of any amount to projects they want to help support.
Spinks is doing what he can to help himself and others while he waits and hopes.
He is vice-president of the Vernon and District Métis Association and volunteers in its youth programs as well as working on First Nations arts and crafts and his collection of artifacts. He also volunteers with the Vernon Vipers and collects stuffed toys for the annual Viper Teddy Bear Toss for local children. He is researching his aboriginal heritage and family genealogy. He enjoys getting out into nature as often as possible. He loves music and plays the guitar.
There was a time just before the heart surgery when he was not sure if it was worthwhile but now as he recovers, he feels he still has a lot to give.
“I’m just happy to be here and grateful for each day. I appreciate my friends and how they are helping me and I’m hopeful for the future,” he said.
For more information, or to assist with Spinks in getting an insulin pump, go to GoFundMe.com/NEED-INSULIN-PUMP