Garden Delights

By Shari Gilford

Gardening for Healthy Diet and Exercise

As I stand in the newly green grass I envision juicy red tomatoes, carrot fronds dancing in the breeze, and pole beans clambering up to the sky. The warm sunshine is coaxing every living thing to raise its sleepy head after the cold winter. Spring urges me to get busy and plant my vegetable seeds! My mother instilled in me a love for fresh vegetables. Her yearly garden provided an abundance of taste sensations, and I was allowed to eagerly nibble at whim. Nothing is better than a fresh-picked green bean or snow pea, or the sensation of a sun-warmed cherry tomato on my tongue.

In January of 1977 I began dialysis. I was 11 years old. I cried when I found out my garden smorgasbord was now off-limits. My mother found it strange that I couldn’t have all those vitamin-packed vegetables anymore. Isn’t that what keeps a child healthy? I wasn’t deprived for long. Just as summer arrived, my brother gave me his kidney—the gift of life… and the gift of vegetables! On my first day home after too many days of Jell-O and hospital food, my mother fixed my favorite meal. With great delight, I delved into my plate of freshly-dug potatoes baked on the grill and just-picked tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans. It was the best-tasting meal I’d had in a long time.

As an adult, I now understand the reasons why some foods are restricted. However, a dialysis diet doesn’t stop me from planting my favorite high-potassium vegetables—tomatoes, potatoes, and butternut squash. I’ve learned to eat them in moderation, carefully keeping track of my potassium intake. Fortunately, not all vegetables are taboo. I can quickly devour large portions of green beans and cabbage! Basil is the most treasured plant in my garden. For me, summer equals basil… and fresh pesto. Pesto perks up the flavor of steamed vegetables, and on pasta it’s a lower-potassium choice than tomato sauce. I could eat it every day!

My garden provides more than just good food. Digging, bending, reaching, squatting, lifting, and numerous trips back and forth to the garage are all great calorie-burners and muscle-strengtheners. After a few hours, I know I’ve given my body a good workout! I’m tired but invigorated. In my garden, all my senses wake up—as I feel the warmth of the sun and hear the birds singing, as I smell the fragrance of damp grass and as my fingers touch the cool, soft earth. Every part of me pulses with life and exhilaration. My garden sprouts the miracle of life in my heart.

types of dialysis - shari gilfordAbout the Author
With over 30 years of combined dialysis and transplant experience, Shari’s passion is to help fellow patients live well. She received her third kidney transplant in March 2006. In the near future, she and her husband have plans to live in India for a year. Shari is active in a kidney support group in her community and has been involved in RSN’s programs for many years.

Uploaded: 1-6-2011

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