W.Va. County Is Diabetes Capital of U.S.

"Not only is it an epidemic, but epidemiologists who I've spoken to say it's a pandemic," Hurley said. "It is the leading cause of kidney failure, of non-traumatic amputation, blindness, nerve damage to your fingers -- it's really a very, very serious disease."

Hurley says genetics is one way people can get diabetes, in addition to a poor diet, which Susie says is the biggest challenge where her family lives.

"We don't have a lot of options here," said Susie Blankenship. "Wendy's, McDonalds in Logan. In the Man area, we have Wendy's, Hardee's. And pizza, lots of pizza parlors."

'He'd Rather Have Eggs'

Two of Ranny and Tammy's older brothers, Norville and Arlen Blankenship, who live in Ohio, are doing whatever they can to stay healthy.

"I check my sugar every morning and a lot of times I will check it around noon, then I will take it in the evening," said Norville Blankenship. "With a needle in my hand, take the sugar that way. But I take my insulin twice a day."

To stay active, Norville rides an exercise bike several times a week. His wife, Janice, tries to cook healthier, not that Norville is always pleased about it.

"Well, there's times I will give him things he doesn't really like," she said. "Like a couple days ago I gave him oatmeal for breakfast and he doesn't like that. He'd rather have eggs."

"And," added Norville, "some good gravy, biscuits, bacon. I can't help it, I love it. I am an eater, I have always been one and I still will be one, but I am trying to watch my sugar, and I am working at it right now, get it on down."

Last year, their sister Emmeline died from diabetes complications. Arlen Blankenship thinks she was in denial about how severe her disease was.

"She didn't take care of herself either," he said. "Blind and everything else. Got down so she couldn't walk and stuff. They just don't want to face the facts that stuff is going to happen to them and they let it go until it's too late."

The brothers worry their siblings in West Virginia are doing the same.

"They should listen to their doctor and try to go with that because it will help them," said Norville.

Hurley talked about living with diabetes.

"Diabetes doesn't hurt," he said. "Someone once said to me, if diabetes hurt, I would take it more seriously. You don't feel it. What you don't realize is that this high blood sugar level is wreaking havoc all throughout your body."

Despite the diagnosis, and seeing how sick his brothers and sisters were getting, Ranny hasn't change his eating habits, or followed his doctor's orders.

He said he didn't test himself daily, although he was supposed to multiple times a day.

"I might do it once in a month," he said.

Part of what makes diabetes so difficult is the constant monitoring, the constant diet control. Those measures are life-prolonging, but for some diabetics, it's just too hard to keep on track.

And in advanced cases, such as Maynard's, the routine gets even more difficult. During dialysis, her blood is cleaned by machine, because the kidneys can't do it.

She said what keeps her going is her 9-month-old grandson, Jeremy Sean.

"I would have done gave up" if not for the child, she said, crying. When it comes to diabetes, she hopes her grandson's generation will have it better.

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