Cabrini aids students with various health needs

By Amanda Finnegan
April 27, 2006

Dan Squire

Blood testing and insulin injections have been a part of senior elementary education Mary Oschell’s life for the past 10 years. Counting carbohydrates for Oschell is not because she is watching her waistline but watching her blood sugar. But with new developments emerging almost daily and an accommodating campus, chronic illnesses like diabetes are becoming more and more manageable.

With her insulin pump on her side and blood glucose meter in pocket, Oschell starts a grueling day of student teaching. Now 22, Oschell was diagnosed at the end of the sixth grade with type 1 diabetes which means Oschell’s pancreas does not produce enough insulin necessary for her body to process sugars. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are more than 20.8 million people who have diabetes and approximately 1 million people are newly diagnosed yearly in United States as of 2005.

Health services coordinator and registered nurse Susan Fitzgerald said that Cabrini tries its best to accommodate to those who are in Oschell’s position. “Even before students come to Cabrini, they have to fill out all their health and immunization records. We then meet with all incoming students at orientation to make them aware of our services,” Fitzgerald said. “Some families of those who have chronic illnesses call to let us know. For those who have dietary needs, we get them in touch with the dieticians in dining services.”

General manager of dining services Michael Antolini said that dining services are always willing to work with students with dietary needs. “With incoming students, we tell them that we would like to know about all their needs. We try to find out what the allergen is first and then see what options are available,” Antolini said. For sophomore education major Jess Fagotti, dining services did just that. Fagotti was diagnosed with celiac disease four and a half years ago. Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune intestinal syndrome where the body does not tolerate gluten. “When I first came to Cabrini, I sat down with chef Rodney and Mike Antolini and they left me feeling very comfortable with my options. Chef Rodney and other chefs openly suggested that if I needed a meal they would come to my rescue,” Fagotti said. Dining services currently accommodates half a dozen students with similar issues.

Oschell also agreed that dining services has been very cooperative with her needs. “I find that I can usually get something at the caf or Jazzman’s that isn’t loaded with carbs. But there are those days that I want French fries of pizza like everyone else. I just have to make sure that I take the insulin to cover those foods,” Oschell said. The summer before Oschell’s senior year of high school, she switched from insulin injections to a subcutaneous pump that has made her diabetes much more manageable. With just a push of a few buttons, Oschell is able to compensate for her high-carb favorites.

According to the New York Times, Pfizer has developed an inhaled form of insulin, which is the first alternative for millions with diabetes since the drug was introduced in the 1920s. The new inhaler called Exbuera will offer more convenience and less pain for the 5 million Americans suffering with diabetes. “I am amazed at how many innovations there are in the area of diabetes. There are people out there who understand that it is a challenge and they are developing items to make life little bit easier,” Oschell said.

Sean Hughes, founder and head critic of, understands the conflicts that those like Oschell and Fagotti face. “When I first was diagnosed with diabetes, I did not have a starting point of where to find a good tasting food that would fit my new diet. By starting this website, I hope to fill that void for the millions of diabetics that are in the same situation,” Hughes said.

“Most students that come to college with a chronic illness have it under control. They’re pretty self-sufficient but we are always here to help,” Fitzgerald said. Fitzgerald added that Cabrini supplies an extensive referral list of health care providers in the area to help those with illnesses find an emergency contact.

Fagotti said, “I would just say that it helps a great deal in establishing a relationship with the dining services staff. Don’t be afraid to open your mouth about needing something because they are very willing to do whatever they can for you. Don’t be shy about an allergy with other people. Many people find it interesting and joke about it here and it can help with your comfort level.”

Posted to the web by Shane Evans

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Amanda Finnegan

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