Failing to plan is like planning to fail, as the popular saying goes. You can impulse-proof mealtimes by making sure quick meal choices are at the ready. Make it a practice to never get caught without good food choices on hand, so you always have a sound, healthy alternative to eat. Quick Chili is a great way to start, modified for the dialysis diet by Becky, a dialysis patient, and her renal dietitian Mary from Washington. Mary says, “Becky is an excellent cook and wanted to create a lower-potassium chili. We came up with hominy as a substitute for beans because it has a similar look and ‘mouth feel’ to beans.” Quick Chili yields six portions that can be frozen until that day when you really need it.
Mary’s dad was the first to encourage her to become a dietitian. “He died of a heart attack when he was 44 years old,” Mary says. “It seemed like a great way to help people improve health and longevity.” Originally from Georgia, Mary attended Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. “Renal nutrition was my favorite, most interesting rotation during internship at the VA hospital in Houston, Texas.”
There are challenging aspects to her career in dietetics, and Mary specifies that coordinating care conferences and communicating with 25-plus physicians at the clinic are some of them. The most rewarding aspect of her job is the ongoing relationship with patients. “I know of no other dietitian position where one can be part of patients’ lives for years,” she comments. “I hope to keep dialysis patients healthier and educated and motivated to keep their labs in range. I want my renal patients to know that I care about them and their well-being. I really enjoy building rapport and knowing that my patients are happy to see me and value the information and counseling that I give them,” shares Mary.
When it comes to working with patients, Mary says, “I very much believe that patients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. When I hand out report cards each month, my goal is to learn something new about each patient.”
The key to improving health lies in staying well-dialyzed and as active as possible. An area that can be a challenge for many dialysis patients is phosphorus control. To help her patients, Mary tried a new approach to phosphate-binder modeling (dosing phosphorus binders to absorb phosphorus load). She says, “I believe there is nothing more important to phosphorus control than doing a food recall with patients followed by education on adjusting the number of phosphorus binders needed with frequently eaten foods.”
Mary has been at DaVita for more than 1-1/2 years. She says, “It seems that we dietitians at DaVita are more appreciated and respected for our expertise and the contribution that we make to patient care than at other places I’ve worked. I’ve been a dialysis renal dietitian for 17 years.”
Mary enjoys the diversity of her Washington dialysis center, which has a cross-section of ethnicities including Korean, Russian, Hispanic, Marshall Islanders, Chinese, Filipino, African American, Native American and Caucasian. Mary says, “We have a college professor, MBAs, production line workers, store owners, computer techies, retirees, college students, mothers, dads, grandfathers and grandmothers. Our patients range in age from 27 to 91 years old. We have an active peritoneal dialysis (PD) program and home hemodialysis program, as well as in-center hemodialysis. At any given time 25 or more nephrologists have patients here.”
Here’s a hearty recipe Mary believes anyone and everyone will enjoy. Quick Chili is a great, lower potassium recipe to make for now and save some for later. Thanks to input from dialysis patient, Becky, and renal dietitian, Mary, this high protein choice is delicious, nutritious and ready for the table in less than an hour.