Karen Kemp

Meet Karen Kemp, living with diabetes

Most people know that if you are very thirsty, have little energy, blurred vision, or rapid weight gain or loss, you just might have diabetes. What many don’t know is that you can have diabetes and not show any of these signs or symptoms.

Karen Kemp didn’t know she had diabetes when she trekked off to Southeast Asia 30 years ago. After a year of backpacking, she began to feel ill, so much so that she decided to head home to Vancouver. On the flight, she developed a high fever and felt extremely weak. Turning to the passenger beside her, she gave him her dad’s contact information, just in case she didn’t survive.

She almost didn’t. Karen fell into a coma en route, the plane made an emergency landing, and she was rushed to the nearest hospital, where she was told she might not live beyond six hours. “The doctors and nurses put me in a bed filled with ice packs to get my fever down. When I regained consciousness, they handed me the phone. My dad was on the other end,” she recalls.

“Every 10 seconds someone loses their life due to complications with diabetes. My sister was one of them. Without Diabetes Canada’s dedication to research, I too may have been a statistic.”

karen kemp

Karen was lucky to have survived. Little did she know that her sister, who had battled diabetes for five years, had also gone into a coma two weeks prior to Karen’s own near-death experience. “She never woke up.”

Once she was well enough, Karen immediately contacted the Diabetes Canada for information on the disease she hadn’t known she had, as well for support and “any other resources I needed.” Ever grateful for that support, Karen has been giving back to the Association — one of 17 national health charities working under the HealthPartners umbrella to transform the health of Canadians — as a dedicated volunteer. “Thanks to advances in research and technology, such as insulin pump therapy, many people are able to control their diabetes better,” she says. “As one survivor, I am living proof that donating to HealthPartners works.”

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