Taking Care of My Greek Cook With Diabetes
The diabetic and me
My impression of my Greek Chief cook was he's old enough to be my father. I was 30 years old and he's 52.That was 2001 when I had my first commercial vessel at Mihara city in Hiroshima prefecture in Japan. The panamax-type (around 39,000 gross tonnage) product tanker vessel was bound for South Korea on April the same year after our 4 days of rest at the Seaman's center. My cook immediately professed to me that he had diabetes, so, I had to be extra-vigilant in taking care of him, the provision and the galley. Hmmm...am I a caregiver or an assistant cook?
My Greek master immediately informed me of the pros and cons of having a diabetic person on board ship. I just nodded and promised to help my superior in his medication and the weight watch and his eating habit. Wow! I never imagined myself taking care of such kind of person while I was just learning the routines on board the vessel.
In other words, I spent my six-month contract knowing how to assist him, familiarize with Greek food and the most engaging role as a 'caregiver' on board ship.
I said to myself, with a deep breath, okay..."this well be a 'hell' of a job." No backing out.
My chief cook was diagnosed with diabetes insipidus, its prominent indicators are excessive sweating and unnoticed urination or the visible effects of convulsive thirst and excessive urination.
These were part of my routines when I was on board my maiden vessel together with Greek cook:
- He had three kinds of medication I had to divide because he already had poor eyesight. I had to remind him to take his dosage everyday. I had to check his cabin regularly.
- Blood sugar test everyday was another routine that I can't forget whenever he felt dizzy. I was able to read the systolic and diastolic factors on the BP (blood pressure) gadget that became part of his daily check-up on board ship.
- The uncontrolled urination on his pants was another burden. He had to go to his cabin to change his uniform. I had to do all his laundry and mend his worn out pants, too. (It's okay, I reminded myself, he lavished me with chocolates in exchange..hehehe!)
- The highs and lows of his character, like tantrums (shouting in the galley that my fellow Filipino, he's a steward couldn't bear) and self-pity.
- I had to restrict him from drinking too much soft drinks. We have to order for a zero-calorie packs just for him. His alternative was to drink soda water. He also used synthetic sugar for his Greek coffee or the brewed ones.
- There was a time that he can't sleep at night and had to pester some officers at the bridge with his 'tall' stories.
- One tragic day happened when he wasn't able to wake up that I had to spank him on the back. He said he's having a very frightful nightmare that he couldn't move his body or even make himself awaken.
- I had to do all the chores when those symptoms occupied his stay on board.
Re-shots of my photos on board ship in 2001Click thumbnail to view full-size
Diabetes...what the captain said.
Saturday nights or get-together are common on board ship, or even not on that particular day...many seafarers engage in a drinking spree to overcome boredom or homesickness.
My Greek master said that we had to limit with two cans of beer every week, because its residual effects will last for five days. Filipinos and Greek alike are heavy drinkers, so they had to hide or buy their own liquors or spirits whenever we went ashore, much to the dislike of my British-trained captain.
During one of our safety meeting, he brought out the subject and cited example regarding my chief cook who abused himself by excessive drinking of alcohol and smoking cigarettes. Plus the indulgence of eating too much chocolates (who can ever resist the craving?).
So, I had to exhaust all the supplies at the slop chest room for the orders requested by 'thirsty' seafarers, but with precaution from the master: "Don't work while under the influence of liquor, or I'll send you home!"
"High blood pressure and obesity can lead directly to diabetes," further explained by our master. He concluded the meeting that while we're still young, we had to watch of what we eat, drink and the kind of lifestyle we are into.
"Moderation in every thing is a must!"
Our master encouraged all his subordinates, fellow officers and ratings to have a clean, healthy living on board ship. He always include to buy gym equipment in order for us to have a daily exercise.
My diabetic chief cook had to settle for the stationary bike. I had to try the lifts to add more pounds in my body. I've taken the initiative to follow the example of our master to maintain a healthy physique. After dinner time (usually 6 pm at any standard time), we used to rush at the gym for a daily workout.
The results?! My chief cook's blood pressure began to normalize. Our bodies became muscled and other, especially deckhands developed bodies that can compete in body-building competition.
Diabetes Overview c/o AnswersTV
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Diet of my Diabetic Cook on board ship
I wrote a hub regarding the food we eat that directly affects our personality or even the diseases that invade our body.
Since my Greek chief cook limited himself away from eating too much sweets and carbohydrates, he resorted or settled into the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean style of cooking has been medically proven to be good for people with diabetes—and for good reason. Rich in heart-healthy fiber, nutrients, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants, this delicious diet of fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole-grains can help lower blood pressure and risk for heart disease— all beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.
His eating routine or even other Greeks started with eating just pieces of cheeses (gouda, kefalotyri, ementhal, or even white cheese) and a glass of pure milk (UHT -ultra high treated). More often than not, they're fond of eating toasted bread with lots of bleu cheese (what a smell!) as their bread spread.
I usually prepared grated carrots for my chief cook with a splurge of lemon juice on it. It tasted like mango.
The taste of his food, mostly pasta, was usually bland in order to control the fluctuations of his blood pressure and blood sugar, likewise his carbohydrate intake.
He said that he's eating less, not the usual food portioning that he got used to. He avoided too much rice intake. Instead, he ordered brown bread, rich in fiber, instead of the white bread (containing bleached flour) we usually buy.
He usually grill his food and avoid using too much oil. For salads, olive oil is the choice of everyone, because it's light to the taste and zero in cholesterol.
He usually eat more fish that meats. He said that the fish oil can stabilize and lower his cholesterol. He seldom saute his Greek menu; whenever he did, he always use olive oil.
Something to remember when you acquired Diabetes
Because of his experience, "moderation" is a must for every thing a diabetic person does. The disease will never leave your body but you can control it, prolong your life and still enjoy the lifestyle you are involved with.
According my Greek chief cook, these are the things he always keep in mind:
- Lowering your blood sugar. If your blood count is normal, you'll not feel dizzy or the life-threatening high-blood pressure. Sugar strip test or the traditional 'prick' one can be used daily to alert your when there's a sudden 'surge' on your blood count.
- Homemade remedies for treating diabetes. If your medication didn't last for a certain period and you're out of budget, you can have an alternative to pacify the effects of diabetes. My chief cook used to drink dried flower tea (mostly chamomile flowers) instead of drinking coffee (high in barbiturates). Soda water can also help lower blood sugar level.
- Diabetic Foods Bland recipes but effective cure for diabetes are unsalted fish, brown bread (usually oat breads or rye or barley bread that are rich in fibers), boiled vegetables and fresh fruits.
So, there. He slowly but surely overcome his disease and still working on board ship 10 years after.
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