It must be the work of kitchen elves. What other explanation could there be for the spectacular results when a few ordinary apples are mixed with plain oatmeal, butter, cinnamon and a few other common ingredients? Easy Apple Oatmeal Crisp is an instant family-pleaser that is also modified for those on the kidney diet by DaVita renal dietitian, Karen from Washington.
Karen says she grew up all over the country and always knew she wanted to be in the health care field. “I spent my teenage years in South Bend, Indiana, where I still go home for Christmas,” Karen says. “I became excited about nutrition as I learned how pivotal it is in preventative, curative and maintenance health care.”
Her bachelor’s degree was earned at Carleton College in Minnesota. “I attended the University of Washington in Seattle for my master’s degree. The renal field fascinated me because of how crucial the kidney ultimately is in appropriately processing many of the nutrients we consume. Helping patients deal with and overcome the nutritional challenges they face in kidney failure is highly rewarding,” says Karen.
Rewards are many in the renal nutrition field for Karen. She is always inspired to see how happy patients are when lab values improve after a struggle. “I make a difference in patients’ lives by giving them the tools and education that can help them live longer and feel better while on dialysis. I enjoy repeated patient interaction that enables me to get to know the entire person, not just the dialysis patients’ current nutritional issues. My approach is positive. I always try to focus on the positive before discussing the negative; and there’s always something positive that can be said,” shares Karen.
Karen reveals that she got one popular idea from an online renal dietitian list serve to which she belongs. It’s been effective in teaching my patients about phosphorus and calcium and why they should want to keep lab values within range,” she says. I get red licorice to represent a healthy blood vessel and a large rigatoni to represent an unhealthy blood vessel. I show the patient how flexible the licorice is while describing the ease a healthy blood vessel has in moving, expanding and contracting to circulate blood. Then, taking the rigatoni, I show them how hard it is, crushing it in my hand to demonstrate brittleness, and describing the hardening process their own blood vessels are going through with repeated high calcium and phosphorus levels and how this affects circulation and sets the stage for soft tissue calcification (vascular hardening). Providing a visual for patients to see what consistently high calcium and phosphorus levels can do has literally opened some eyes,” Karen recounts.
The single most important thing patients can do to improve their health in Karen’s opinion is to care about their health. “I’ve been with DaVita since August 2007. I enjoy the company’s ‘Village’ approach to management; it makes everyone feel a sense of responsibility to the company and helps teammates feel like we are all in this together — we’re not just subordinates taking orders from above. The entire team works together to continuously improve patient care and quality of life — that’s what makes the dialysis center special,” says Karen.
Here’s a special recipe for Karen’s Easy Apple Oatmeal Crisp. This yummy, kidney-friendly food is a destined to become a classic snack or dessert at your house.