Conquering diabetes fatigue: Support to overcome ‘diabetic burnout’

Popcorn foot injury leads to a new lease on life for Temea

Tuesday, December 12 2023

A wound from stepping on a popcorn kernel proved to be a blessing in disguise for 23-year-old Temea de Lange, a type 1 diabetic who was experiencing what she describes as ‘diabetic burnout’. Emotionally overwhelmed after being insulin dependent for more than half of her life, Temea needed a dedicated diabetes support team to help her regain control of her blood sugar.

“Being diagnosed with diabetes can often come as a shock and first reactions may include disbelief, feeling overwhelmed, even anger,” says Sr Deirdre Coetzee, a diabetes nurse educator and member of the diabetes multidisciplinary team at Netcare Medicross Roodepoort.

Temea de Lange recently regained control of her diabetes and married the love of her life, Willem. 


“We understand that diabetes, whether it is type 1 or type 2, can feel like a heavy burden to bear and we are here to help people understand their condition better and support them to self-manage their condition.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes diabetes as a chronic, metabolic disease characterised by high levels of blood glucose, or blood sugar, which over time can lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. 

Type 1 diabetics’ bodies are unable to produce enough insulin to regulate their blood sugar, and this chronic condition is usually diagnosed in childhood. 

“I’ve been a type 1 diabetic since I was nine years old, and for 14 years I’ve been dealing with insulin injections and pricking my fingers to check my blood glucose. At first as a child, I was excited to have these new gadgets to ‘play’ with, but as I got older it honestly became harder for me to keep up with my diabetes,” Temea says. 

“I call it ‘diabetic burnout’, I felt like the world was on my shoulders and everything was in shambles. My blood glucose was all over the place, and I also became afraid to eat anything because I have had diabetic ketoacidosis [DKA] three times before.”

“When an insulin-dependent diabetic’s blood sugar levels are too high this can lead to the development of DKA, a potentially life-threatening condition,” explains Dr Zelda Brits, a general practitioner at Netcare Medicross Roodepoort. 


“Sustained high blood sugar levels can also make wounds slow to heal and cause complications, and this is what initially led Temea to consult podiatrist Kara Reabow who is also part of our diabetes multidisciplinary team.”

Temea is at especially high risk for diabetes foot complications because she was born with deformed feet meaning that she can only walk on the balls of her feet, placing extra pressure on this small area of her feet.

“In November 2022, I stepped on an unpopped kernel of popcorn, which pierced the sole of my foot. At first, I didn’t think it was anything to be too worried about, but the wound just wouldn’t heal. Diabetics should take care of their feet like gold. With a lot of pressure from my family, I eventually went to see the podiatrist, Kara, to see if we could get my foot back to normal,” Temea recalls. 

“My wound started healing but then after a few months, my foot got worse again because my blood glucose was not properly controlled. I went back to see Kara, and she introduced me to Dr Brits, Sr Deirdre and the team who helped me make the changes I needed to.”

“Temea often had to deal with very low and very high glucose levels and felt that diabetes had become her whole life. She was scared to eat, couldn’t exercise as usual because her foot was still healing, and she was no longer sure when to use her insulin or how much she needed,” Sr Coetzee says. 

“She felt isolated, angry, and hopeless, just as many diabetics may feel at some point in their journey with this long-term condition. We talked through how she was feeling both physically and emotionally and assured Temea that she doesn’t have to deal with this alone anymore, we are here for her.”

“Dr Brits told me the hard truth I needed to hear about keeping my diabetes controlled, and Sr Deirdre took my hand and walked me through what I had to do. They picked me up, wiped away my tears and made me feel positive about my life with diabetes and the journey ahead,” Temea says. 

“Deidre showed me how not to be afraid of eating anymore and empowered me to understand how to use my insulin injections according to what I eat. Once my foot healed, the team encouraged me to start being more active, and I have been going to jujitsu classes for over a month now.”

“Our multidisciplinary team works with each person to build a personalised care plan according to their needs, lifestyle and culture to help diabetics regain control of their blood glucose readings and manage their condition as healthily as possible,” Sr Coetzee says. 

“Through greater awareness, sharing of knowledge, and continuous support people living with diabetes can learn to self-manage their condition and find the motivation to keep looking after themselves correctly. We are here to help people to make diabetes management a normal part of life, rather than it being a continuous and overwhelming burden.”

“I felt alone until Kara, Sr Deirdre and Dr Brits came into my life and changed my view. I am so much happier since they showed me that I can regain control of my own life and not let diabetes control me,” Temea says. 

If you or a loved one are diabetic, enquire about the Netcare Medicross diabetes management programmes available in your area. Talk to your local Netcare Medicross medical centre team about your individual risk for diabetes and blood glucose testing as part of your routine health check-ups. Book your appointment at


References and further reading

Notes to editor 
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