Dr. Diabetes walked through Bryan County, reaching somewhere around 9,180 miles on Thursday.
Andrew Mandell, 62, likes only to be referred to as Dr. Diabetes, because that’s the whole reason why he’s walking. He took his first steps Dec. 1, 2000 and he hopes to complete his journey – walking around the entire country – by this December, to help raise awareness about diabetes.
"As far as I know, this has never been done before," Mandell said. "Lots of people have walked across the country, but we can’t find anyone who’s walked all the way around it."
Georgia is the 33rd state in the 34-state perimeter. When he reaches his final destination, he will have walked just over 10,000 miles.
"From here, I’ll keep walking down Hwy. 17 to Jacksonville," Mandell said. "From there, I’ll continue on to Key West and then back up the west coast of Florida to Madeira Beach, where I took my first steps in 2000."
Dr. Diabetes was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1985. He said 90 percent of everyone suffering from diabetes is type 2, which is 95 percent preventable.
"Where has this message been? You shouldn’t be hearing this from me," he said. "My main purpose is to raise awareness about prevention. If you know the risk factors, warning signs and methods of prevention, diabetes can be a lot less overwhelming and a lot more preventable."
Currently, more than 22 million people have diabetes, and that number is expected to climb to somewhere between 48 and 66 million by 2025.
"I know I’ve had too much time to think about this, but my stride is about 30 inches long so by the time I finish my journey, I will have walked just about 22 million steps – one step for every person with diabetes," he said.
Mandell said an estimated one in three children born after 2000 will one day be diagnosed with diabetes. He described it as a brutal disease, noting it can take up to eight to 10 years for symptoms to show up. Meanwhile, a simple test called the A1-C is an important first step – especially if a person has risk factors.
"The A1-C test is very simple. Insurance will cover the test in a doctor’s office, but you can order a test from our website to take at home. It costs about $25 and you mail it out and get your results in a few days," he said, noting the test can be done locally through Diabetes Technology in Savannah.
Mandell hopes his ‘Dr. Diabetes’ theme will help him and the organization become the source for everything relating to diabetes.
"I hope to earn the respect and trust of everyone who suffers from diabetes. I’m doing this to help build an identity for diabetes, so I might one day be like the Walter Cronkite of diabetes," he said. "And we’re not only drawing attention to it, but we’re also providing solutions."
Dr. Diabetes said he hopes his journey will show that people with diabetes are not helpless and not hopeless.
"I knew this journey would take me a number of years but this is a commitment to the goal," he said. "It’s been an interesting journey and this world is full of people with diabetes."
Mandell said people have joined him along the way and the honks from cars passing by always give him a little more motivation. To read the diary of his journey, find out more about the A1-C test or diabetes risk factors and prevention methods, visit the website at www.Defeat Diabetes.org.