Helping Diabetics Control Their Lives and Sugar Levels

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poverty is often an obstacle to maintaining a good diet

by gavin aronsen

for more than three decades-all of her adult life-angela schramm has worked in various roles at st. luke's-roosevelt hospital center in new york city.

schramm, a registered nurse and diabetes educator, has spent the past 20 of those years working near her morningside heights home in the hospital's outpatient department on the upper west side, where she has lived since 2002.

once she received her diabetes certificate, she said, she began focusing most of her work on the disease, which currently includes individual patient consultations and a monthly group education session. however, schramm said she has always been familiar with diabetes.

"it was just part of every nurse's job," she said. "it's just such an epidemic that it's rare to find a clinic that doesn't have a large diabetic population."

schramm, 58, was born in queens and has lived in new york all her life. she studied to become a nurse first at queensborough community college, before entering a bachelor's program at dominican college to the north in blauvelt.

for schramm, moving to the upper west side eight years ago was a no-brainer.

"i've always felt very comfortable here, and i'm really happy now that i actually live here," she said.

that community feeling includes a stronger connection with her patients-sometimes almost to a fault.

"it's not uncommon to be on the bus with one of my patients and they'll be talking about patient-related stuff," she said, laughing. "i have to try to get them to separate that i'm not at work."

schramm has known many of her patients for a very long time.

"i see them in the store, i see them walking on broadway," she said. "it's nice. it's a very nice atmosphere to know your patients."

of course, these relationships aren't always easy. a large part of schramm's job is helping her patients cope with diabetes, which she said was hard because "nobody wants to take medication" for a disease that's not typically visible to the naked eye.

"so it's an uphill battle, trying to get people to take care of themselves with preventive steps," she said. "it's rough to live with a chronic disease."

a big part of that difficulty, oftentimes, is poverty. at a recent monthly meeting, schramm spoke with her group about how they could shop at farmers markets that have come into prevalence in the city, instead of opting for less healthy options. but even those foods have become pricey, she said.

her efforts can pay big dividends. when patients keep their blood sugars lower, it drastically reduces the risk of diabetic complications such as blindness and amputated limbs.

schramm said her line of work is rewarding. beyond her typical day job, she helps the clinic raise awareness of the disease on the annual world diabetes day in november. and after 9/11, she registered with the city's office of emergency management, through which she cared for victims of the h1n1 flu last year.

outside of work, schramm enjoys her patient-independent community life at morningside heights, as well. she enjoys a ceramics hobby and volunteering at a nearby retirement home.

"there's a real community feeling to the upper west side in general," she said.

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