SALEMBURG — This Saturday, Perry Williams will ride his 15-speed Roadmaster bicycle, with a reflective American flag boldly displayed, for many miles on the highways of southeastern North Carolina.
“It’s something I love doing,” Williams said while gripping the handlebars of his bike.
With each push of the pedals, he wants to bring awareness to a serious health problem – diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. The majority of food consumed by people is turned into glucose or sugar and the pancreas makes insulin to help transfer glucose to cells for energy. Diabetes arises when the body doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own, resulting in sugar building up in the blood.
It’s something Williams knows firsthand. The Type 2 diabetic was hospitalized in 2012 and fell into a coma because of a high blood sugar level of 1600.
“My organs shut down; I was on life support and by the grace of God, I’m still here,” he said. “I consider myself as a miracle.”
Type 2 diabetes develops with insulin resistance, a condition which occurs when muscle, fat and liver cells do not use insulin to carry glucose for energy. The pancreas keeps up with the increased demand for insulin, but after awhile, the pancreas does not make enough insulin when blood sugar levels increase.
He fell in and out of the coma. There were doubts about him living through it.
“I had a strong heart from all the years of riding the bike,” he said. “But the diabetes was still infecting my heart.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes can cause serious health complications such as blindness, kidney failure and amputations. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
Williams will spend a portion of his Labor Day weekend spreading hope and awareness through his love of cycling. It’s something he’s been doing for 12 years.
“It’s something I want to do for the community as a bicyclist,” he said.
For his diabetic treatment, he’s currently on insulin, taking pills and has bad nerves in his right thigh.
“It’s a serious disease,” he said, referring to his past experiences at Sampson Regional Medical Center and the UNC-Chapel Hill Hospital. “It can shut your body down.”
The non-stop time trial will begin in Roseboro and is scheduled to finish in Elizabethtown. He wants to finish in two hours.
Although Williams is 53, he does not feel that old, thanks to bicycling, he said.
“I feel 10 years younger,” he said.
Many people associate diabetes with obesity, but it can strike individuals such as Williams, who has the appearance of a fit person. Williams said it runs in the family.
“I’ve been fit all my life,” he said. “People that I know, ask me how I can become a diabetic. They thought that it would never happen to me since I ride bikes.”
Williams, who is also known as the bicycleman, said cycling is something he wants to continue for a long time, despite having diabetes.
It’s not his first time taking long trips on his bike. He previously rode to South Carolina and Fayetteville.
Three years from now, Williams said he would like to ride across the country for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“I love kids and I don’t want to see any child sick,” he said.
He’s currently looking for sponsors for his upcoming ride. For more information, call 910-564-4257.