- Geoff Whitington struggled with Type 2 diabetes for more than 10 years
- The 62-year-old father was overweight and faced a possible leg amputation
- Devastated by his lack of will to live, his sons Ian and Anthony took action
The brothers had arranged the ten-day break to spend precious time with their dad Geoff, but also to remind him of the man he once was.
Geoff was just 62 at the time but his weight had nudged over 20 stone — way too high for his 6 foot frame.
He was so immobile he had to use crutches and was in danger of having a foot amputated due to the creeping effects of the Type 2 diabetes he had lived with for ten years.
The trip two years ago was the brothers’ last ditch attempt to save their dad.
‘We laid photos out on the table,’ says filmmaker Anthony, a 38-year-old father-of-four from Ashford, Kent.
‘We told Dad: “This is why we brought you here.”
‘There were old pictures of him looking fit, healthy and happy as he played with Ian and me when we were little.
‘Then there were the more recent pictures of him not only very overweight at over 20 stone, but also cutting a much more distant and depressed figure. It was clear he was ready to give up on life.’
Rather than see their father further deteriorate before their eyes, the brothers decided to take action.
‘We insisted that if he could stick to the diet and exercise plan we had devised for him, we could hopefully enable him to spend another 20 to 30 years with us and his four grandchildren,’ says Anthony.
‘That was our turning point. He realised how much he had to fight for.’
The story of how Anthony and his younger brother Ian, 37, a documentary maker, intervened to bring their father back from the brink is told in a powerful new BBC film, called Fixing Dad.
The searingly honest documentary is a salutary tale for the 3.6 million people with Type 2 diabetes in the UK.
With his family’s help Geoff believes he has managed to ‘reverse’ the disease: he now weighs 13 stone and his blood sugar levels are so low he no longer needs diabetes medication.
His sons believe this may not have happened had they not stuck Geoff on an 800-calorie-a-day diet for eight weeks, an approach pioneered by Professor Roy Taylor of Newcastle University’s Diabetes Research Group.
They also dramatically slashed his carbohydrate intake — by banning pasta and bread — after studies in the journals Nutrition & Metabolism and Diabetologia in 2008 and 2012 found this may be one of the best approaches to reset the release of insulin to safe levels again.
FIXING DAD TRAILER from Whitington Brothers Films on Vimeo.
Yet this flies in the face of official NHS advice which tells people living with Type 2 they don’t need to ‘completely exclude sugary’ foods and should include starchy carbohydrates such as pasta in the diet.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s cells become resistant to insulin, the hormone which helps every cell in the body to take up the glucose needed for energy.
The disease normally occurs when fat clogs the liver, which regulates the supply of glucose into the blood stream, and the pancreas, the gland behind the stomach that produces insulin.
Anthony says: ‘The official advice given to people diagnosed with Type 2 is that it’s a life sentence.
‘However, with my dad, we wanted to prove we could actually “fix” it.’
This meant the brothers had to undo Geoff’s life-long habits.
A security guard, who often worked 15-hour night shifts, Geoff would buy fast food several times a week, even though his second wife of 20 years, Marilyn, cooked for him at home. He also snacked on crisps and cookies.
When Geoff was first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes aged 52, during checks for his irregular heartbeat, he was given medication.
‘He took the view he’d just have to take it for the rest of his life,’ says Anthony.
Every check-up he had over the next decade found that his sugar levels had risen. Yet to his family’s dismay each time he was given a higher dose of metformin — a drug which controls blood sugar — but no advice on how to control it naturally through diet and exercise.
He started to suffer side-effects of having consistently raised blood sugar. It damaged the blood vessels in his feet, reducing circulation and he developed two ulcers on his right foot, one on the ball of his foot and the other on his big toe.
On the other, he had developed Charcot foot, another side-effect of diabetes, in which the bones become so fragile that the arch collapses due to lack of blood supply to the tendons and bones.
Anthony says: ‘The result was that Dad was on crutches and spent a lot of time on the sofa watching TV, making his health worse.’
By 2013, months before the Spanish holiday, Geoff was told his ulcerated foot might need to be amputated and he sank into a deep depression.
‘Instead of making him fight back, it was as if Dad thought: “I might as well give up now,”’ says Anthony.
Read full story here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/
Fixing Dad will be shown on BBC2 on Sunday July 24 at 10pm.