Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release: November 9, 2016
Thompson, R-Okemah, and Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, talk about
the impact of diabetes on thousands of Oklahoma families, including
their own. Thompson serves as chair and Simpson is vice-chair of the
Legislative Diabetes Caucus. The lawmakers are urging Oklahomans to
attend World Diabetes Day at the state Capitol on November 14.
Lawmakers share how diabetes
has affected their families;
urge participation in World Diabetes Day at state Capitol
When someone is diagnosed
with diabetes, their life can change drastically. Those changes can
be stressful, isolating, frightening and expensive. It’s something
Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, and Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer,
know about firsthand. Thompson currently serves as chair of the
Legislature’s Diabetes Caucus and Simpson serves as vice-chair. It
was something both men wanted to do because of what their families
have gone through after loved ones were diagnosed with diabetes
The legislators are urging the public to come to the state Capitol
on November 14, for World Diabetes Day. The event will help people
learn more about the disease, the importance of testing, and get
information to help stay healthier.
Diabetes is a group of diseases that affects how the body uses blood
sugar, or glucose. People with diabetes have too much glucose in
their blood, which in turn leads to serious health problems. It’s
the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower-limb
amputations and new cases of blindness among adults in the United
States. It’s considered to be an epidemic, world-wide, nationally,
and here in Oklahoma.
Both Thompson and Simpson understand all too well the impact
diabetes can have on families.
Thompson’s son, Lynn, now in his 30s, was a teenager when he first
began developing symptoms—he was 21 when was diagnosed with Type I
“brittle” diabetes. While Type 2 diabetes can often be successfully
controlled with diet and exercise, those with Type 1 must take
insulin. Even with insulin, individuals with brittle diabetes have a
particularly difficult time regulating blood sugar, putting them at
even greater risk for complications.
“He’s suffered multiple strokes, and sudden changes in his blood
sugar levels can cause him to lose consciousness. He’s been in
accidents as a result of that. There have been times when other
family members have been frustrated because they don’t understand
the limitations and complications, so we’ve had to try to educate
them,” Thompson said. “There are ongoing problems with insurance
companies that will cover a needed medication, and then stop
covering it. The out-of-pocket expenses are at least $1200 a month.
It’s something that as a whole, really affects an entire family, and
thousands of Oklahoma families are facing this.”
Thompson said during one frightening medical incident, his son’s
blood sugar level dropped to 32, when a normal level is closer to
100. It was a critical health situation, but a local law enforcement
officer thought it was a case of someone being under the influence
and took him to jail. Another officer who knew the family spoke up
and said this was the result of a diabetic medical incident and
contacted the family, but Thompson said it still took 24 hours to
get his son released. He said it was a frustrating and potentially
Simpson’s granddaughter, Payslee, was just 12 when she was diagnosed
with Type I diabetes. She died this past June at the age of 29 from
heart disease—one of many serious health complications faced by
“The physical risks were dangerous and life-threatening, but we
could take care of those,” Simpson said. “For her, probably the
biggest problem was the emotional and psychological impact. Living
in a small Texas town, the only child with diabetes, she felt like
an oddity, like there was something wrong with her. It was
devastating for her.”
Simpson believes his granddaughter’s inability to handle the stress
of being a diabetic later resulted in her not doing what was
necessary to keep her diabetes in check once she became a young
adult. He said that was likely a factor in the cardiac complications
that caused Payslee’s untimely death.
Through the Diabetic Caucus, Simpson said his goal is to create an
awareness with the public and to let families dealing with this know
they aren’t alone.
“Because of my granddaughter, I’ve really tried to reach out to
young adults between the ages of 18 and 24. They leave the house and
no longer have their parents’ supervision to make sure they are
monitoring their blood sugar and staying on top of their insulin.
They think they know better and don’t realize how dangerous this can
be,” Simpson said. “I share what happened to Payslee in the hopes of
saving another family from experiencing a similar tragedy.
Twenty-nine is too young for a young lady to die.”
While Thompson’s family has long been dealing with the impact of
Type I diabetes, they later learned his wife was at risk for Type II
diabetes. A visit to her doctor revealed she was pre-diabetic.
Thompson said the diagnosis came as a shock.
“She’s petite, she’s always watched what she ate and she exercised
some. To look at her you’d never have thought she was pre-diabetic,”
Thompson said that diagnosis means more medical expenses for the
family. It’s estimated that people with diabetes have medical
expenses approximately 2.3 times higher than those who do not have
“We’ll have more out-of-pocket expenses, but we’ll handle it. We’ll
be fine, but a lot of Oklahoma families aren’t,” Thompson said.
“We’ve got to do better. We must do better.”
Both Simpson and Thompson said families dealing with diabetes need
more help and support. The lawmakers urged Oklahomans throughout the
state to attend World Diabetes Day at the Capitol this coming
“Senator Simpson and I are not unique. It affects thousands of
families across Oklahoma. We want them to come, and learn what’s
going on, but we also want them to know we’re all struggling. Come
and be a part of this. Create this working relationship and look for
answers for your family, because even since I’ve been involved in
the caucus, I’ve learned things I didn’t even know about that can
help our family,” Thompson said. “Come to this day, learn, engage,
and I think your family will be better off for it.”
World Diabetes Day will be held at the state Capitol on Monday,
November 14, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the fourth floor rotunda and
in the House chamber. The event is open to the public.
“I think it can be a source of strength and encouragement for
families to see they aren’t the only ones dealing with this,”
Simpson said. “Just because Senator Thompson and I are elected
officials, it doesn’t mean our families are immune from those same
problems and those same pains that so many families are suffering
with. They’re not alone and they may learn something at this event
that can help them improve their lifestyle and health.”
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