Helping diabetic patients live positively
Ketsela Asmare is a nurse counselor at the Ethiopian Diabetes Association (EDA), where she has been working since the year 2000. Driven by her passion to help people, Ketsela started volunteering at the Association as a teenager, several years prior to joining as staff. When asked how she decided to become a nurse, she says, “I wasn’t always a nurse. I initially studied Office Management, but soon after graduating, I went back to school to study nursing as I had a deep desire to help people in need.”
Herself a Type 1 diabetic since childhood, Ketsela acutely feels the pain, confusion, and frustration that young patients and their families experience as they grapple to deal with the new reality of living with this lifelong condition. As she deals with angry, stubborn, or withdrawn patients, she finds that as soon as she shares her own diabetic status, they quickly open up to her and find it easier to listen to and accept her advice and instruction. “I have been where they are now, so I understand their pain but I also know that there is a way out, and life awaits with all its possibilities. So I encourage, push and at times speak to them sternly so they can come out and experience life to the fullest, just like me.”
With her nursing background, her personal journey with diabetes and equipped with the WHO guidelines adapted to the local context and translated to local languages, Ketsela works diligently to bring positive behavioral change in patients and their families. Seeing how healthy and happy Ketsela is, and hearing of her full and impactful life, mothers who had previously been distraught at the news of their child’s condition regain hope for their child’s future. Patients who had previously refused to even consider self-injecting insulin learn from Ketsela as she dry-injects to demonstrate how it is done with little discomfort, and start to self-inject.
Known only to the EDA and its members, Nurse Ketsela is an unsung hero of the fight against diabetes. She is serving in the frontlines, only from a different, less visible spot.
Established in 1984, the Ethiopian Diabetes Association (EDA) works to empower diabetic patients, their families, and the wider public through up-to-date information on diabetes prevention care and the right kind of treatment. It strives to see positive change in the lives of all people affected by the condition and is an important networking forum for patients and their families. The Association also provides insulin and syringes free of charge for its members, many of whom cannot afford to cover their own medication expenses.
Volunteers and staff at the EDA educate patients and their families on the management of diabetes, including demonstrations on how to correctly inject insulin and measure blood glucose, maintain a healthy diet and avoid complications. They also provide crucial emotional and psychosocial support.
The Ethiopian Diabetes Association holds annual forums around World Diabetes Day in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and other partners. It also organizes sessions and produces materials for frontline workers, patients and their families on counseling, nutrition, and diabetic footcare following WHO guidelines.
EDA works closely with the Ministry of Health and other actors to ensure maximum support and care for its members.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of WHO Regional Office for Africa.