What is your role at St. Paul's Hospital?
"We are both dietitians with the Post Kidney Transplant Program. We follow patients in the outpatient clinic from the time they leave the hospital until after transplant and beyond. There are approximately 1000 kidney transplant recipients between the two of us.
Nutrition needs are very diverse after transplant. We work with recipients to optimize nutrition status for surgical recovery and wound healing, manage other comorbidities that can help preserve and optimize kidney function and also help to maintain a good quality of life. While the focus is on kidney health, we also work with gastrointestinal, bone, cardiovascular health, blood sugar management, and more. We help patients adjust to what can be a big shift in diet after experiencing kidney failure or dialysis."
Can you explain what a day in the life of your job looks like?
"We have three clinic days per week and see up to 75+ patients per clinic. We do one-to-one counselling with recipients and families and work closely with interdisciplinary teams. We monitor blood work, changes to medications and health status between visits. We also communicate to patients via phone or email in between visits.
We offer group based programming, and are currently running a Craving Change program in collaboration with the Healthy Heart Program which allows participants to learn about eating behaviours in a supported environment.
We have projects on the go with BC Transplant and through the Provindence Health Research Challenge. Currently we have one project that looks at bone health after kidney transplant and our other project looks at cardiovascular health up to five years post-transplant. We develop teaching materials and resources, collaborate with colleagues province wide, attend meetings and participate in education events and conferences and mentor students from the UBC dietetics program."
What is the most rewarding part of being on this team?
"The team is cohesive, collaborative and dedicated. We are able to see the coordinated effort behind the scenes to make the program possible for donors, recipients and families. We are privileged to follow many patients long term, which allows us to get to know them and their families. We are constantly inspired by their resilience in their health journeys, and this in turn helps us to better cater our recommendations to each individuals specific needs. We get to be part of a pretty extraordinary time in patients' lives.
Anja used to work with the peritoneal dialysis population, and it was exciting to see patients she met on dialysis receive a transplant which opened up new opportunities for them. For example, she remembers overhearing a patient being excited that he could go swimming with his grandson. Anja used to work with kidney transplant recipients at the University Hospital of Northern BC and she always heard very positive comments about the care the patients received in their first few months after receiving their transplant at St. Paul's Hospital - she is very excited to be a part of the team at providence health.
Each health care provider at St. Paul's Hospital truly cares about their patients and many go above and beyond in optimizing the support that patients receive throughout the life of their new kidney."
What are some common myths and misconceptions you've come across about organ donation?
"There is a misconception that age or medical conditions would prevent someone from being a donor, or that only close relatives can donate. In reality, we have a huge range of successful donors, and every potential donor is assessed on an individual basis. It's best to let the process determine eligibility. We also have programs that allow someone to donate even if they are not an exact match via paired exchange."
How important is organ donation and discussing one's decisions with family and friends?
"Very important, so many lives are changed and affected by people's decisions to donate."
What is your perspective on BC's milestone of 50 years of donation and transplant?
"Over the past few years, we've seen the program grow substantially, in part due to new and creative initiatives to increase living kidney donation. Our team is actively involved in research, which allows us to contribute to this growth and make our interventions as effective and patient supported as possible. We are so thrilled to be a part of this team and to see more and more people given the chance at a new life."