SEBRING - As a doctor of podiatric medicine for the last 20 years, Dr. Olga Luepschen has seen more than her share of foot ailments that diabetes can cause. They could be ingrown toenails, swelling, foot ulcers, cuts and sores, corns, deep foot infections and Charcot foot deformities.
It was with these in mind that she decided to step up and participate in a 100-mile bike ride to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association.
I have never ridden a bike this far in my life and even though I'm nervous, I'm looking forward to the challenge of completing the Tour de Cure ride on March 30," Luepschen said. "I want to be an encouragement to my patients. I'm not very coordinated, and even though I have fallen off my bike, I keep getting back up on the bike. I want the Highlands County diabetics to have hope and not give up when they receive a diabetes diagnosis."
Even simple everyday problems can worsen, leading to serious complications in diabetics, she said. A foot problem usually happens when there is nerve damage causing a loss of feeling in the feet called neuropathy. Also, one out of three diabetics develops poor blood flow, which prevents injuries from healing, she adds.
Diabetes affects 26 million people in the U.S. worldwide. Every seven seconds someone dies from diabetes. Every 20 seconds, a diabetic has an amputation.
The Tour de Cure is held in 44 states, and all money raised goes to preventing and curing diabetes. The goal is to improve the lives of all people affected by the disease.
Dr. Olga, as her patients call her, was encouraged by winter resident Paula Lunt, who signed herself up to spread the word on diabetes because of her father.
Simple steps she teaches her patients are "inspect, protect, prevent and consult." Inspect your feet daily looking for blisters, cuts, sores and any red areas. Protect your feet by washing them every day in lukewarm water (not hot water) and moisturizing. Prevent injuries by wearing comfortable shoes. Consult your foot doctor immediately if you suspect a problem on your feet.
Luepschen is seeking support to help raise $500 for the cause. Donations of any amount can be made by sending a tax deductible check made out to the American Diabetes Association to: Gentle Foot Care Center, 2 Ryant Blvd., Sebring, FL 33870, or donors may drop it off. You can also go to www.tour.diabetes.org, click "donate" and type "Olga Luepschen."
"Together we can stop diabetes one mile at a time," Luepschen said.