Chip Sullivan is a golf pro. This June he played his best game ever,beating the top club professionals in the country and qualifying forthe fourth time to play against the likes of Tiger Woods in the PGAchampionship tour.
The victory was particularly sweet because it had so recentlyseemed out of reach: Around Christmas of last year, Chip wasdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes and hemochromatosis, a potentiallydeadly disease of iron overload.
Chip's sister had died of liver failure caused by hemochromatosis in2004, at the age of 44. She'd been diagnosed with both type 2diabetes and hemochromatosis only about a year before her death, andby that time years of organ damage had already been done.
In spite of the fact that hemochromatosis is an inherited diseasethat's especially common in the Irish, Chip didn't suspect that hewas at risk. He was slender and fit, and he believed himself to behealthy.
He'd been feeling very tired for a long time, though, and inDecember 2006 he decided to ask his doctor what was going on. Ablood test was done, and his blood glucose level came back at 368mg/dl. When he mentioned the family history of hemochromatosis, aferritin test was also carried out, and that was sky high as well.
In retrospect, Chip believes that he probably had both type 2diabetes and hemochromatosis for years. But once he finally had hisdiagnoses pinned down, he went all out to fix them.
For three months, he underwent two phlebotomies (blood-lettings)a week to empty out iron from his system. A pint of blood wasremoved each time, until his ferritin level dropped from 1129 to 7.4ng.ml. Now he's on a maintenance schedule, having a phlebotomyevery month or so to keep his iron levels within a normal range.
To combat his diabetes, Chip was put on insulin. First he triedExubera, but inhaling insulin didn't work for him because he keptgoing low. Next he was put on Lantus and Novolog, but he wasn't toohappy with that either, and the carb counting threw him for aloop.
When he found out that many people with type 2 take pills insteadof insulin, he changed doctors. Now he manages very well on onemorning shot of Lantus, 1500 mg of Janumet, and a diet that excludessoft drinks, pasta, or potatoes.
After Chip was first diagnosed, he called his older sister in Alaskaand told her to go get tested. She turned out to have borderlinehemochromatosis and type 2 diabetes as well, so now she's gettingphlebotomies too.
Chip believes that his grandparents may have died of undiagnosedhemochromatosis, and he worries about the future of his threechildren. But their pediatrician advises against having themgenetically tested, for fear that insurance companies will refuse toinsure them when they reach adulthood. The disease generally doesn'tsurface until middle age, so Chip is still debating whether or notto have them tested.
Chip is confident that he has his diseases well under control now.He fully intends to see his children grow up, and he sees the futureas very bright. "I don't feel like 42 is that old, " he says. "Ihave my best years of golf ahead of me."
For more information about hemochromatosis, see "Hemochromatosis and Bronze Diabetes: Caused By Iron Overload" and"Too Much Iron Can Cause Diabetes".