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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 June 2007, 06:05 GMT 07:05 UK
Ex-rugby star in diabetes warning
Ray Gravell
Blood flow problems led to Ray Gravell's leg amputation
Rugby legend Ray Gravell has spoken about the ordeal of losing a leg and has urged people to be aware of the danger of diabetes.

His warning comes a day after Wales's NHS chief warned that fundamental change is necessary to deal with a rise in chronic conditions.

Ex-Llanelli and Lions star Gravell was diagnosed with diabetes in 2000.

As cases of diabetes continue to rise, he urged people to go for regular check-ups with their GPs.

It was during one of those regular yearly check-up that his blood test showed his sugar levels were slightly high.

It's only the one body we have and the one journey we make on this life. We have to make the most of it and look after ourselves and our families
Ray Gravell

"Being a diabetic changed my life," he said.

"I concentrated on good food, fruit, vegetables, the healthy eating, and it worked quite well.

"Then it progressed and when I went back and had more tests, the sugar levels were not acceptable and I had to go on medication - tablets which kept control and the results were quite good.

'Slightly unlucky'

But he said a combination of factors including problems with blood flow in one of his arteries was to eventually lead to the amputation of his right leg below the knee in April this year.

"In my case, I think I was slightly unlucky, as sometimes happens in life," he added. "There was no alternative than to take off the leg to eradicate the problem."

A key member of the Grand Slam and Triple Crown winning Welsh teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s before becoming a BBC broadcaster and commentator, he said it was important people undergo regular check-ups.

"That's why they are there. It's only the one body we have and the one journey we make on this life," he said. "We have to make the most of it and look after ourselves and our families."

Don't let it get in the way, don't let it stop you, don't let anyone tell you it can stop you - go on and do what you want to do
Athlete Melanie Stephens

As BBC Wales continues its series on chronic illnesses, 19-year-old Cardiff athlete Melanie Stephens has also spoken about how diabetes has changed her life completely since her diagnosis six years go.

"It has affected my day to day life in my diet - it does affect everything you do actually," she said.

"For example something as simple as going to the supermarket, I have to read every label of the food I am eating to make sure it corresponds with the diet I need to try and keep myself healthy."

Ms Stephens, who recently became Welsh sprint champion in the 100m and 200m, only started running after getting diabetes and said it had made her more determined to succeed.

"I just want to carry on and keep going and keep winning medals. I would love to go to the Olympics or the Commonwealth games," she said.

"Don't let it get in the way, don't let it stop you, don't let anyone tell you it can stop you - go on and do what you want to do."

But she added she does have concerns about what could happen in the future.

"I think if you can try and measure your blood sugars as you go along and try and keep control of your insulin then it should be ok in later life."




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