Hospital hosts diva-style diabetes education

October 19, 2009|By CHRIS COPLEY

Washington County Hospital's next diabetic education program is all about empowerment. But it was born in tragedy.

New Yorker Max Szadek had a career in show business when he was hired as the late R&B singer Luther Vandross' personal assistant.

Vandross didn't make Szadek's job easy.

"Luther had 50 people on the road to help him with his music," Szadek said by phone from New York. "But when he dealt with his diabetes, he did it alone."

Vandross' way of managing his diabetes was, according to Szadek, not very disciplined. He gained and lost weight. He didn't eat properly. Eventually it caught up with him. Vandross had a stroke in 2003; Szadek was the one who broke down the door of Vandross' apartment and found him on the floor. He died two years later.


Szadek said Vandross' stroke and death hit him hard. But Szadek took lessons from Vandross's self-care habits and mixed them with the work he had done on Broadway to develop a way to encourage other people to take better care of themselves.

The solution: Think of yourself as a star and surround yourself with a health-management entourage. Szadek called his program Divabetic.

"It's diva-style diabetes outreach," Szadek said. "I think a lot of people with diabetes feel isolated and alone. A lot of Divabetic's principles are very much in line with standard diabetes education, but we dress it up with feather boas."

Cindy Earle, Washington County Hospital's community health education program coordinator, helped bring the Divabetic program to Hagerstown.

"The whole idea is that we are making divas of the women who attend," she said. "You never see a diva who never cares for herself well or who doesn't express her wants and needs forthrightly."

Earle said the hospital wanted to have a program that appealed to middle-aged women who had diabetes or were responsible for caring for someone with diabetes. Not all people with diabetes manage their disease well, she said, and that can have a negative impact on those who depend on her.

"Especially where there are children involved," Earle said. "We're now seeing diabetes more in our children."

The program will feature Broadway-show atmosphere, she said, with music videos, a feather-boa workout, chair-based cardio demos, healthful lifestyle tips, games, photo sessions and prize giveaways.

"It's a really fun and interactive approach to diabetes education for women," Szadek said. "A lot of standard diabetes education is very much a lecture format. I have years of work in theater. So I saw an opportunity to blend the two."

The bottom line, for Szadek, is to prevent other families from suffering the loss he felt when he found Luther Vandross on the floor.

"I've trying to prevent a stroke, amputation or blindness," Szadek said.

Divabetic is for men and women, he emphasized, but it is designed with women in mind. They are often the primary care-givers for their family.

"I think women are the windows to their families," he said. "If we can reach the woman, we can reach her family."

If you go ...

WHAT: Divabetic, a Broadway-themed, diabetes-education program

WHEN: 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 12

WHERE: Robinwood Medical Center, 11110 Medical Campus Road, Suite 142, east of Hagerstown

COST: $25; register in advance

CONTACT: Call Washington County Hospital at 888-803-1518

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