E.K. Ray just hadn’t been feeling well.

Maybe it was a virus, like his general practitioner suggested. Maybe there was something in the chilly November air, or something more to the heartburn that never went away.

Whatever it was, the young entrepreneur was experiencing extreme nausea. If he wasn’t throwing up, he was running to the bathroom every 15 minutes, all of which compounded the lethargy that had overcome him in recent weeks.

It turned out to be not just one thing he ate, but everything he ate.

At over 400 pounds, the 31-year-old had developed type 2 diabetes mellitus, a form of diabetes that usually hits people in adulthood. The insulin imbalance is mostly the result of poor diet and no exercise.

According to his doctors, for half a year his body had been slowly shutting down as a result of his toxic relationship with food.

“I started to go into a diabetic coma,” he said, noting that he was told his blood sugar count was over 700 milligrams per deciliter. Normally, blood sugar concentration is 70 mg/dl to 130 mg/dl before a meal and less than 180 mg/dl after eating, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Preventive health care, including screening and treatment for diabetes, is a key part of the health care reforms addressed by the federal Affordable Care Act.

Maryland’s health insurance marketplace is run by the Maryland Health Connection.

Ray now admits that that the habits that led to his condition centered around long work hours, late-night meals, many of them at fast food restaurants and no exercise.

“When you eat like that and you’re stagnant and not exercising the weight just piles on.”

By May 2005, Ray was an intensive care patient at Georgetown University Hospital.

He only had two options: get used to injecting himself with insulin or change his behavior.

“I had put my life into great peril. Going through the traumatic experience I had just gone through, it was more than enough for me to say no more fries, no more cheeseburgers, no more fried chicken, or pizza. I immediately cut all that out.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human a total of 25.8 million Americans- including children and adults have been diagnosed with diabetes.

“It is an epidemic in our communities,” said Tracy Newsome, associate director of mission delivery for the American Diabetes Association. “African Americans are the second highest ethnic group affected by diabetes.”

“People think it’s not going to happen to them,” said Newsome. “They are in denial and want to eat what they want to eat. You can prevent type 2. Small steps lead to big rewards.”

According to Ray, a small part of the epidemic can be helped by changing food patterns with small children.

“When you’re a child, you hear your mother say ‘if you’re good in the store, you can get a bag of chips or some fries from McDonalds. This sets up a pattern for children and even as adults because later, when you get a new job or a new promotion- you turn to a slice of cheesecake, a slice of pie, or an extravagant dinner as a reward. You don’t think about the calories or the downside of the reward.”

“This is all part of our relationship with food.”

For more information on E.K. Ray’s journey with diabetes, pick up his book “Diabetes: The Silent Killer – How I Survived!”


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer