For most of us, eating enough calories is not a problem, but it may be a challenge for those following the renal diet. Christine, a DaVita dietitian from Kansas, makes this easier with her quick and easy Blueberry Buckle. “This is a family recipe passed down from my grandmother,” Christine says. “It’s a family favorite!”
Raised in Lansing, Kansas, Christine’s passion for learning about food and how it affects the human body led to her studies in dietetics at Kansas State University. “We all need to eat, so nutrition is a topic that affects each and every person,” she observes.
Christine loved her renal rotation so much she accepted a position in the field immediately after completing her internship. A dietitian with determination, she likes the fact that “the renal field is very complicated and poses challenges on a daily basis.”
Always up for breaking down dense complicated information, Christine appreciates the complexity of kidney care, particularly issues like mineral and bone disorders, and relishes the opportunity to explain tricky concepts to her patients.
“I enjoy the relationship that is established between dialysis patients and their team,” she says. “I also enjoy watching the progress people make when they apply the education they receive to their daily lives.”
It’s important to treat others the way we’d like to be treated ourselves, and Christine knows this. “I teach them what I would want to know if I were in their shoes, so I individualize patient diets to include the foods that they love,” she says. “There is no “one size fits all” diet, and each person learns in a different manner.”
Her creative approach to teaching helps Christine as an educator. “I have found that visual education is very effective with most patients,” she notes. “I like to use visual props when explaining how binders work and the importance in taking them.”
It is this ability to customize diet and treatment plans that makes Christine so effective in teaching her patients new skills to maximize their health. She believes that the single most important thing patients can do to improve their well-being is to “learn as much as they can about their disease process so they can make educated decisions about their own care.”
A DaVita dietitian since 2000, Christine appreciates the camaraderie she shares with her fellow dietitians. “DaVita has such a powerful group of professionals, and we learn so much from each other,” she says. “It is exciting to be part of such an amazing group.”
Christine also values the intimate atmosphere she shares with her colleagues, which isn’t something one would expect from a national corporation as big as DaVita. “It was surprising to me that such a large group could feel so small,” she admits. “Despite the large size of our group, we are still able to share and learn from each other.” She and her team use e-mail, conference calls and Dietitian Connection meetings to create a closer connection.
Instrumental in fostering the positive work environment at Christine’s center is her “dynamic” group of patients and teammates who genuinely care about each other. “Our teammates have been faced with many life challenges this past year,” she notes. “As a team, we have helped each other get through these troubled times.”
Christine says one thing that helps her team overcome adversity is a commitment to play. “We like to have fun!” she enthuses. Her group always makes a point of finding time to have a good time, and hat days, patient parties and football Fridays go a long way toward making that happen.
It’s this light-hearted spirit that makes kidney disease less scary. High interdialytic weight gain (IDWG) is a condition that can arise from excess fluid weight gain as a result of increased thirst. While it might seem like a good idea to drink water to quench a dry throat, that can get in the way of the work dialysis does to reduce water retention in renal patients. The way Christine tells this story, it’s easy to see there can also be humor in the situation.
"I won’t forget the time when a patient who had elevated IDWG levels was telling me that she bought a large watermelon, and had been eating huge portions since she lived alone,” recalls Christine.
Since watermelon is almost entirely comprised of water, it counts as a fluid in the dialysis diet, and needs to be limited for optimum health.
“I recommended she share it with her friends,” continues Christine. “Two days later, I received a call from the nephrologists that the patients were all eating watermelon in the lobby!”
When she got the clinic to sort things out, her patient protested that she’d just being doing as instructed: sharing the watermelon with her friends.
“I guess I should have been more specific as to which friends she share with!” laughs Christine.
As for sharing, we can all be grateful Christine decided to treat us to her grandmother’s Blueberry Buckle. Looks like eating enough calories just got a whole lot sweeter and easier.