Wishing upon a star is great way to begin getting healthy. The next step is to consult with Cindy, a DaVita renal dietitian from Wisconsin. Cindy works her dialysis-diet magic by individualizing health plans that satisfy each of her patients’ tastes and desires. Her vast knowledge helps her patient’s create delicious, kidney-friendly meals that are easy — like the flick of a wand — to make. Her mouthwatering Fruit Salad Slaw is full of sweet and crunchy flavors, and Cindy’s Asparagus Cauliflower Tortilla is filling, comforting and great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Although Cindy is modest, her sharp mind and diligent work ethic help patients change their lives making difficult obstacles easier to overcome. Cindy says, “I’d like to think I make a difference by listening to their concerns, wishes, challenges, etcetera, and providing them with the necessary education and tools to help them reach a goal; whether it be just to feel better or get a lab value within goal or add spice and variety to their diet or learn which products are best for renal patients and where to find these products.”
Cindy approaches each day with enthusiasm and good things naturally happen. “The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing patients’ successes and how good they feel reaching a goal through their hard work. Just the other day one of the patients said he and his wife are so very thankful that I was able to find them an alternative medication for one prescribed by the nephrologist. My patient reported that it has saved him a lot of money and he doesn’t know how to thank me. He got teary eyed and shook my hand. What a good feeling I had for the rest of the day.”
Before Cindy became a renal dietitian, she had a unique experience in corporate America that’s given her insight and appreciation for her career. “I worked as a Wellness Program Coordinator for three large manufacturers in the Rockford, IL, area from 1987 to 2006. I facilitated a program called the Coronary Health Improvement Program (CHIP) created by Dr. Hans Diehl. In the process of facilitating this program I knew I wanted to learn more about nutrition and how to help others reach their potential through diet and exercise. (I also have a degree in Fitness Leadership with an emphasis in Corporate Fitness.) So I finished my bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics and my dietetic internship in order to be able to take the registered dietitian (RD) test.”
The renal field is a natural fit for Cindy. “I attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, IL, for my bachelor’s in both Corporate Fitness and in Nutrition and Dietetics. I did my dietetic internship at Mount Mary College in Milwaukee, WI. As part of my internship I spent 13 weeks at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. My favorite rotation was covering the renal and transplant floor. My preceptor for this rotation had a lot of experience working with renal patients and her passion for working with this population, I think, rubbed off on me,” shares Cindy.
Bonding with her patients is one of Cindy’s favorite aspects of her job. “I enjoy learning about patients’ needs and trying to find unique ways to help them find solutions and answers. I strive to have a partnering relationship with the patients. I don’t want them to think of me as the ‘food police’ or someone who is going to ‘yell at them’ when their lab values are out of range. Rather, for example, I want to work with patients to find out what is causing values to be out of range and develop a plan to help improve their values, which hopefully will help them feel better and live longer.”
Cindy has easy advice that works like a charm to help maintain health. “To improve overall health I think learning to take responsibility of your own health is the starting point. Knowing that what you do — for the most part you have choices — actually affects your health and longevity. Clinically, controlling phosphorus is a top priority.”
It’s not all business for Cindy and her patients, she also sprinkles in fun. “Our patients like to play Bingo. Playing games with patients as an education tool seems to get their attention. Phosphorus Binder Bingo is their favorite. I am also developing other games. I really get a better understanding of what they actually do know about foods that are high or low in phosphorus. Our patients also liked the sing-a-long we do at Christmas with songs like Twelve Days of Christmas (Dietitian Version), Your Dietitian is Coming to Work, Jingle Bells and Feliz Navidad. And, we recognize each patient’s birthday with a balloon and by singing Happy Birthday. You can see by their faces that just remembering them on their birthday makes a difference,” smiles Cindy.
Create a little magic in the kitchen with the delicious recipes provided by Cindy. Her Fruit Salad Slaw is perfect as a snack or a compliment to a meal, while her Asparagus Cauliflower Tortilla is warm, rich and filled with flavor. Each is quick and easy to prepare and will put a smile on everyone’s face.