See note below
Mr. Lo, family man and professional chef, Hong Kong – “For the first time in many years, I have hope. I now believe I can be there for my family and see my children have their own children. I can grow old with my wife. I can live the life that I want to live.”
When Mr. Lo was 32, his life seemed idyllic. He was blessed with a wife of five years and a 1-year-old son. He had a job as a chef, which allowed him to craft intricate and interesting meals for customers, while continuing to refine his favorite dish: deceptively simple, yet hearty fried rice. In his free time, he focused on stamp collecting, a hobby he started in his youth and still found enjoyment in as an adult.
Then, during a routine doctor visit, his world changed.
A standard blood test uncovered Mr. Lo had developed Type 2 diabetes, a chronic illness that affects the way the body processes blood sugar. Up until that time, he knew little about the illness. With the diagnosis, he suddenly found himself overwhelmed by the amount information he had to learn and the steps he had to take to change in his life, including watching what he ate and exercising.
As a successful chef, Mr. Lo was surrounded by temptation every day. Tasting dishes throughout the day to make sure they were just right for customers had the potential to send his blood sugar out of his target range. And because he was on his feet all day at work, he found it difficult to exercise when he returned home. As his disease progressed, Mr. Lo started watching what he ate more carefully, but it was not enough, and within months, his doctor added medication to his daily regimen to keep his diabetes under control.
Despite his efforts, Mr. Lo’s diabetes grew progressively worse, and the number of pills he had to take every day continued to climb. By 2011 he was taking ten pills twice a day and his blood sugar still wasn’t well controlled. He grew increasingly concerned about the toll the disease was taking on his life, work and family, as well as the risk his disease could lead to blindness, nerve pain or limb amputations. His wife, son and daughter worried every day that they could lose him to the illness.
The next step to control his diabetes was to begin daily insulin injections, an option Mr. Lo didn’t want to consider. He knew that the side effects of insulin included the risk of extremely low blood sugar levels and blurry vision, both of which could interfere with his work. He also didn’t like the idea of having to test his blood sugar and inject himself every day.
While researching alternate treatments, Mr. Lo stumbled upon MetaCure’s DIAMOND therapy, which was in clinical trials in Hong Kong at the time. The implantable device had the potential to offer a novel way of treating diabetes while avoiding the complications associated with insulin. And unlike bariatric surgery, which has been gaining popularity as a diabetes treatment, the procedure didn’t involve making any anatomy changes and was fully reversible.
Mr. Lo enrolled to the study and was implanted with a small stimulator under the skin. Almost immediately after receiving the device, Mr. Lo began to feel its effects. Each time he ate a meal, he experienced a small tingling as the stimulator activated the stomach muscles and signaled the body to produce and release insulin. As an added benefit, Mr. Lo found that he ate smaller and smaller portions as the stimulation helped him feel full faster.
Within just six months his doctor informed him that his blood sugar levels dropped from 9.6 percent to 6.5 percent. He was also able to cut the number of pills he took by more than half, and he began to lose weight.
This was unbelievable news for Mr. Lo and his family, who had almost given up hope of finding a suitable treatment option. He no longer had to worry that diabetes would take his eyesight, his limbs or his life. He could once again picture himself leading a long, healthy life, continuing to pursue his passion for cooking and enjoying time with his family.
Four years after receiving the implant, Mr. Lo’s life is better than he ever imagined as a patient with a serious illness. He now takes only two pills a day, and his blood sugar level is down to 6.9 percent, close to the well-controlled target for diabetic patients.
What’s more, his diabetes no longer interferes with his life or his work. He can eat almost anything he wants because the DIAMOND device prompts his body to crave far smaller quantities than he ate previously. With the device managing his sugar level continuously, he worries less about the potentially serious complications of the disease, and focuses more on his family and making the best fried rice in Hong Kong.
Disclaimer: the photographed person is unrelated to this story