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Diabetic doctor defies disease

Cecily Asson Sunday, August 13 2017

Who Shiva Chackan is at this point in his life gives little insight into the hardships and obstacles the 25-yearold medical doctor has had to overcome.

In practice at San Fernando General Hospital in the orthopaedic department, no one could imagine that at age 15, while a fourth form student at Presentation College, San Fernando, Chackan received devastating news that he had Type One diabetes.

Then began a journey that would change his life.

Despite his diabetes, Chackan swam competitively, was a member of the Sea Scouts, earned himself eight Grade One’s at Ordinary Level and eight distinctions at Advanced Level, won an open national scholarship and graduated from UWI with a degree in medicine.

He is now an advocate for diabetes prevention, sharing information and experiences from the other side of the physician’s desk.

On July 31, Chackan was chosen as a Young Leader by the International Diabetes Federation to educate citizens about chronic diseases, all part of an effort to employ the child advocate model of creating awareness.

The federation, Sunday Newsday was told, has an activist in every island. Chackan, who is from Ste Madeleine, remains mighty proud of the strides he has made.

“I sincerely hope that my success story will drive others to embrace diabetes not as a dysfunction but as an opportunity to show it (diabetes) that you are indeed the boss.” Proper management through diet, exercise and medication has become part of his routine.

But it was not always so easy, for Chackan recalled his emotions as a teenager when doctors broke the news to him.

“It was at the tender age of 15, I came face to face with this frightening dysfunction for the first time. Confusion, anger, worry, despair and sadness all mixed into the horror which overcame me as I lay on my bed at the Princes Town Hospital. It was there that the doctor uttered using utmost sympathy, ‘You have type one diabetes. It is not a death sentence.’” Chackan said the words stung him “like a whip.” “Words could not describe the heartbreak which almost brought me to tears.

As I lay numb, I hoped it was just a dream but it wasn’t.” Chackan was determined not to let diabetes become his life and take away the joy of living.

He chose management and education over complications and never allowed himself to be at the mercy of “the dysfunction”. With the support of nurses at San Fernando General Hospital, whom he lovingly referred to as “Aunty Marion”, “Aunty Zobida” and “Aunty Jackie”, and his parents Krishna and Farida Chackan, his outlook took on a positive dimension. His life-changing moment came in August 2007 when he took part in a camp for children living with diabetes.

“It was at this amazing camp that I gained the realization that I am not dealing with diabetes alone.” Chackan said the experience strengthened his belief that he could overcome the disease.

“Camp provided not only useful ideas and tips for management but also increased peer networking which provided untouched emotional support whenever needed.” In ten years, Chackan grew from camper to counsellor and eventually doctor and now has the chance to not only to learn from his peers but also to share with them as a professional.

He is single and his parents continue to play an integral role in his helping him manage diabetes.

“My physician is always just a phone call away and other medical staff such as nurses and certified diabetes educators give hints which doctors may not have time to relate.” Despite his outstanding achievement in academics, Chackan considers his greatest accomplishment is managing diabetes so well in the past ten years that he has no complications with any of his organs.

“This is a goal, we, as persons living with diabetes should strive for.”

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