Treating body and soul: a community garden for dialysis patients
Inviting patients to their garden. From left: Roger Cadieux, Denis Dion, Isabelle Nadeau, Pierre Duhamel, Olivier Diec.
Six wooden planters with fruits and vegetables are now taking the space of three cars in the parking lot of a dialysis clinic.
At the Nephrology Outpatient Centre of Charles LeMoyne Hospital Elke Henneberg (EH) spoke with renal dietitian Isabelle Nadeau (IN), RD and Dr. Olivier Diec (OD), nephrologist. They are the proud founders of this garden project, which made the evening news at Radio Canada on August 3rd, 2016.
The clinic is serving 400 dialysis patients and is located in a shopping area in Longeuil, a suburb south of Montreal.
EH: How did you come up with the idea of a community garden at your clinic?
OD: Every day I see our patients sitting in their dialysis chairs and often asked myself: How can we inject some energy and life into our clinic and how can we make this a more positive place? How can we create a connection between the clinic and the outside world? Here in Montreal we hear a lot about community gardens and I thought a garden could be a positive way to motivate patients.
IN: We already offer cooking classes for our patients and we give Spice it up! to our patients who love the recipes. A garden was a natural fit. We liked the concept of planters. The plants are at a level which make it easy to work without bending or kneeling down*.
OD: Once we decided on this project we asked for an estimate to build the boxes and get professional service to set up the garden. We then asked our hospital foundation for support. Luckily we were able to convince them that this is a great project worth supporting!
EH: What were the reactions of patients and colleagues?
IN: Our patients were really surprised when they saw the planted boxes for the first time and could not believe that they belonged to their clinic! It did not take long before they started to get their own hands dirty.
Some people passing by started to take some of our produce home and we had to put signs to make it clear that this was a project of our clinic! The garden makes people aware that there is a clinic and we get some questions. Before we had the garden people were just walking by.
OD: Some of my colleagues see our garden as a new initiative they like to try to motivate patients who struggle with conditions such as diabetes.
EH: What are the most positive things that come out of this garden?
OD: Community spirit, the idea of sharing and the social aspect of a garden. There is a new subject to talk about and it brings people together. The caregivers and patients who are at the clinic at any given time interact more. This is all creating a positive atmosphere. People share their garden and cooking experience. It also helps people to get out of their isolation. We have many patients who live alone at home.
IN: The garden is also educational. We want to show that there are no vegetables that are forbidden for dialysis patients. It is the quantity that counts. Look at our beautiful tomato plants. We have the same message as Spice it up! : “Eat and a variety of foods and use moderation”. We want to motivate people to try new foods and enjoy eating!
EH: What do you do with the harvest?
IN: We all share! Patients, their family and people working at the clinic all are invited to enjoy the produce. Our first year was already a success-the great weather this summer helped, of course. We also had some professional help from the company, which set up the garden. They told us which seeds to use and how to fertilize and water for best results.
Maybe you people at Spice it up! could help us with some advise how to cook with our vegetables or how to keep herbs fresh longer…
EH: Do you have anything else you like to share?
OD: Our garden is an example that can easily be used to start similar projects across the country. We are happy to share our experience with you and help you with advice how to set it up.
IN: If a garden like ours at your clinic is not possible you can always start a mini garden on your balcony!
EH: Congratulations and thank you very much for inviting me!
*The garden was build by a company specialized in urban planters. The boxes have a canvas inside which holds the earth and compost. In the winter the boxes are moved to a garage to be reused in the Spring.
Contact: [email protected], #semezausuivant, #semezlechangement