By Paula Katinas
Editor’s Note: Even though the controversial show “Brooklyn 11223” aired its season finale April 30, there is no shortage of “real” women in Bay Ridge. The Bay Ridge Eagle is proud to continue profiling them and their accomplishments.
Bay Ridge — “My husband and I just got back from watching the Norwegian Day Parade!” Andrea Zaldivar told a reporter on the phone.
It was the afternoon of May 20 and Zaldivar was talking about how much she and her husband, Community Board 10 member Michael Festa, love living in Bay Ridge.
“It has a wonderful atmosphere. We live on a fabulous block. People really care for each other. We watch out for each other after a storm. Neighbors shovel snow from their neighbor’s sidewalk. If someone isn’t seen for a couple of days, someone will always knock on their door to make sure they’re all right. There’s a real sense of community,” Zaldivar said.
Zaldivar, a nurse practitioner who also runs her own business, Bay Ridge Diabetes Counseling Services, wasn’t born and raised here. But she and Festa moved here several years ago and she considers Bay Ridge to be her true home.
“There is so much this community offers. The parade today was beautiful,” she said.
The couple was living in a small apartment in Manhattan when they saw a real estate listing for an apartment in Bay Ridge. They looked at the apartment, fell in love with it, and decided to move here.
“When you live in Manhattan, you’re paying a high rent for a very small space. I loved the idea of moving into a bigger place,” Zaldivar said.
Within a few years, the couple had purchased a home in Bay Ridge.
Zalvidar was born in Downtown Brooklyn. She attended Saint Joseph School on Dean Street. Her family moved to Long Island and she graduated from Baldwin High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Seton Hall University and her master’s degree from Columbia University.
She is currently taking courses at Teacher’s College at Columbia University to complete her doctorate.
Zaldivar is an expert in the field of diabetes. She has spent a large part of her professional life counseling diabetes patients and is a certified diabetes educator.
“My diabetes career has taken me to all sorts of interesting places,” she said.
She once spoke at a conference in Anchorage, Alaska.
“Many people in the audience were from Brooklyn, as it turns out. Their husbands had come to Alaska to work on the pipeline. Here I was in Alaska, and I had all of these people coming up to me and asking me about Brooklyn!” she said.
In addition to her role as a nurse practitioner and diabetes counselor, Zaldivar also works as a clinical manager for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.
Zaldivar has also done work with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in the field of diabetes education.
As a nurse practitioner, she worked in Sunset Park, East Harlem and in other communities where the incidence of diabetes is high.
“My passion is helping people who have diabetes cope with it,” Zaldivar said.
As a nurse practitioner, she has the authority to prescribe medications.
One of the first things people think after a doctor tells them they have diabetes is that they will have to change their eating habits forever. While this is true, Zaldivar said, it’s not an insurmountable problem.
“They don’t have to give up everything they love,” she said. “I always tell patients, ‘It’s not curable, but it is controllable.’”
Many patients go into a form of denial when they learn they are diabetic, she said.
“Some people tend to downplay it after they receive a diagnosis. It’s mostly fear,” she said.
Once the news sinks in, patients often think that management of the disease is going to be all-consuming, she said.
“People think they’re going to have to spend the rest of their lives giving themselves insulin injections with gigantic needles. The needle is actually miniscule. I hear myths all the time. Part of my job is to help the patient look past the myths,” she said.
“Type 2 Diabetes is usually triggered by obesity. But it isn’t triggered by having eaten too many sweets as a child,” Zaldivar said. “Most people who have diabetes die from heart disease, so there is a connection there.”
Zaldivar got into the field of diabetes while working as an emergency room nurse practitioner at Roosevelt Hospital.
“I was interested in ambulatory, outside work and there was a job opening for a bilingual person,” she said.
Zaldivar, whose mother is Puerto Rican and whose father is Cuban, speaks Spanish and English. She took the job.
“It led to a series of doors opening for me,” she said.
After several years of helping patients as a nurse practitioner, Zaldivar decided to open her own counseling firm.
One of her patients is her father.
“My father has diabetes. He has turned out to be a very good patient,” she said.
Zaldivar has also added the Visiting Nurse Service to her resume.
“Now I am exposed to caring for people in their homes. We have a large percentage of patients who are over the age of 90,” she said. “There are an amazing amount of services you can get in your home. You can get an X-ray, a cardiogram, all sorts of tests.”