Jeanne Sager | Democrat
MARK LEVEMTRITT, LEFT, counted out $1,000 to hand over to Dr. Kolo Ediale, second from right, to be spent by the Diabetes Education Center at CRMC. A bassist in the band Vespers, Levemtritt got a warm reception from folks like CRMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Peter Panzarino (beside Ediale) and Diabetes Center Coordinator Donna Gibbons, far right. Unable to attend was Joanne Gilbert, director of the wound care and diabetes center.
'Metal for Mellitus' Aids CRMC
By Jeanne Sager
HARRIS September 14, 2007 There’s not much call for a bass player who’s missing a few digits.
When Mark Levemtritt’s doctor’s told him amputation was the only option, it was a wake-up call.
He called the Diabetes Education Center at Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris.
“They got me back on track,” the lead bassist for Hurleyville band “Vespers” said.
Almost four years after Levemtritt said he “woke up one morning with a bad toe, and Dr. Goldstein took it from me,” the diabetic was back at the hospital this week.
This time, he was the one helping keep someone else on track.
Levemtritt pulled a white banker’s envelope from his pocket and counted out $1,000 in cash, handing the money over to Dr. Kolo Ediale, an endocrinologist and diabetes specialist at CRMC.
Along with his 18-year-old son Derek, fellow diabetic Joel Conrad and friend Dave Weber, Levemtritt put on “Metal for Mellitus” at Nina’s Restaurant in Loch Sheldrake this summer, a rock concert dedicated to raising money for the Diabetes Education Center.
They were playing off the scientific name for “diabetes mellitus,” the diagnosis made when someone’s body can’t properly produce or use insulin, the hormone that converts sugars into energy.
Vespers’ newest fans aren’t your prototypical headbangers.
There’s Ediale, the soft-spoken doctor; Donna Gibbons, the center director who can spout off diabetes facts and figures in a rapid-fire delivery then slip just as quickly into the tales of dropping her 1-year-old son off at daycare; and Carol Park, the registered nurse and grandma who kindly reminds Levemtritt that playing bass may be possible with just two strings, but take care of his diabetes and he’ll never have to worry about it.
The staffers at the Diabetes Education Center treated Levemtritt and Weber like big time rockers when they showed up Wednesday morning.
The donation was wonderful, Gibbons said, but even more important was the message the band helped get out.
“It was probably one of the highlights of our career to have this group of rockers rocking out and then, between their songs, saying ‘you have to learn about diabetes’ or ‘test your blood sugar,’” she said with a laugh. “That’s when you know you’re doing something very positive for the community when you hear feedback like this.”
The Diabetes Education Center is one of CRMC’s hidden treasures.
Located with wound care up on the fourth floor, the center doesn’t get much accidental foot traffic.
But Gibbons said there’s a specific need in Sullivan County for the center’s services in part because the county has the dubious distinction of being in the top five New York State counties for diabetes mortality.
The 1998 age-adjusted mortality rate for diabetes per 100,000 people was 29.6 percent for Sullivan County.
The rate across the entire state was just 18.3 percent.
Diabetes cases are on the rise across the nation, and they’re climbing right here.
The county’s obesity rate is 21 percent, and obesity is a big factor in a large number of Type 2 diabetes cases.
Compared to other areas in New York, the county also has a higher than average population of some of the minority groups most at risk for diabetes, she said.
African-Americans and Hispanics are also traditionally “harder to access,” Gibbons said, making their care more challenging.
The Diabetes Education Center is looking to increase awareness in the community, stressing its availability to everyone.
Opened four years ago in Harris, the center is American Diabetes Association certified and offers services in both English and Spanish.
Patients can access dietary help, counseling, insulin injection and glucose monitoring training, weight management tips and moral support all in one spot.
Although the services are covered by most insurances, ironically the one provider that will not pay for patients to use the center is Medicaid.
That’s where donations come in the center would like to build up a fund to help cover services for the indigent.
The center would like to be able to extend its reaches beyond the hospital to every corner of Sullivan County because while 7 percent of the American population is estimated to be diabetic, the American Diabetes Association surmises one third of the nation’s sufferers haven’t yet been diagnosed.
“We really need to educate the masses,” Levemtritt said. “I know being a diabetic, it affects about one in five, one in three … something like that. It affects a lot of people!”
The band plans to do another concert at some point, as Weber said “to keep him from losing anymore body parts!”
For the folks who spend their days keeping the blood sugar of people like Levemtritt on track, that’s sweet news.
For information on the services available at the Diabetes Education Center at CRMC or to lend a hand, call 794-3300, ext. 2106.