Former NBA star on hand to announce diabetes event

January 29, 2013

Cody Leist

PDT Staff Writer

Community leaders gathered Tuesday to be a part of an announcement in which Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins will speak at a community event April 8.

Wilkins, the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks as well as an Ambassador for New Jersey-based Novo Nordisk, Inc., will arrive to speak to area residents about diabetes education awareness. The time, date and other specific details will be announced at a later date.

Thirteen years ago, Wilkins was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. Coming up on his seventh year with the company, he said the decision to be affiliated with the health care company that specializes in diabetic products was simple. Both his father and grandfather were diabetics.

“I got into it mainly because of the family history and being a diabetic myself,” Wilkins said. “It’s a pretty easy thing to be attached to.”

Among those to attend Tuesday’s event was Portsmouth City Schools Superintendent Scott Dutey. He had high marks for Wilkins.

“He’s an impressive individual,” Dutey said. “To have the career that he’s had and to be honest with you, I wasn’t aware that he had the health issues that he did once he finished playing with the diabetes being diagnosed. It speaks volumes that he’s willing to go across the country and work with folks and share not only his story, but share things that we need to be thinking of and looking at.”

A 15-year NBA veteran at small forward, the man nicknamed “The Human Highlight Film” for his acrobatic dunks throughout his decorated career had stops with Atlanta, the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston, San Antonio and Orlando. Wilkins was inducted into the hall of fame in 2006.

But long before his name was called for induction, he would face one of his toughest opponents to date. In 2000, he started complaining of symptoms such as blurred vision, dry mouth, fatigue and frequent trips to the restroom.

Tests revealed Wilkins’ blood sugar level was around 350-375 when it should have been around 120. A change in diet, exercise and medication was in order.

“Awareness has been a big part of my life the last seven, eight years,” Wilkins said.

The biggest challenge for Wilkins was trying to maintain an active lifestyle after his playing career ended.

“Life slows down and you don’t want to do that type of training anymore,” Wilkins said. “But your body lets you know very quickly that you have to get back to doing something physically active to basically keep you from gaining weight.”

One of the ways to promote awareness is to start healthy habits early. Dutey agrees, especially in families with a history.

“I think it’s a message that can impact everybody from the young to those who are older and may have not been diagnosed yet or those who have been diagnosed to rethink what they’re doing,” Dutey said. “I think the message will be very powerful.”

Dutey said his district is doing all they can to follow state and federal guidelines on lunch guidelines. At the same time, he understands Type 1 Diabetes, or Juvenile Diabetes, is an epidemic in this region.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 8.3 percent of the American population, or 25.8 million people, have diabetes. The Association estimates that there are seven million Americans that have diabetes that are undiagnosed.

For more information on diabetes, and a free online test to help determine if you are potentially suffering from diabetes, visit www.diabetes.org.

Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or cleist@civitasmedia.com.