Fun and education in patient camp in Lithuania

Exchanging thoughts with your peers and enjoying leisure together is so important for patients with chronic disease. In Lithuania, the patient association Gyvastis organises a summer camp every year to bring together various patients, their relatives, doctors and other supporters. This year it was all about nutrition and active lifestyle.

Doctor D. Keinaitė: “A proper diet and an active lifestyle must become the norm for kidney disease patients.” (photo by Leonas Gylis)

Lavysas is a lake in Southern Lithuania. Its water ripples against the backdrop of the Dainava woods, near the town of Varėna. Located on the west coast is the village of Lavyso. In this picturesque village, members of the Lithuanian patient association Gyvastis organised a three-day summer camp for chronically ill patients to relax and to learn how to live an active live despite their illness. The camp takes place every year in July. This year it hosted twenty people from throughout Lithuania, ten of whom were dialysis patients.

For one afternoon, Danutė Keinaitė, Medical Director of the Diaverum clinics in the eastern region of Lithuania, visited the camp participants to talk about contemporary dietary trends. In the relaxed atmosphere of the camp she explained how important it is to stay active and take personal responsibility in order to ensure quality of life as patients with kidney disease. “To take care of your own health as a patient you need to remember three key things every day: nutrition, movement and positive emotions,” Danutė Keinaitė says. “Of course our health is influenced by genes, place of residence, and specific environmental factors. Nevertheless, it is ultimately us as individuals who are responsible for our health. The famous philosopher Seneca once said that ‘our life is not short. We shorten it by eating excessively, smoking, overworking, or by adopting unnecessary pessimistic attitude’.”

In her lecture, Danutė Keinaitė also talked about the fact that being either overweight or underweight increases the risk of disease or, in the case of atherosclerosis, type II diabetes, anorexia and bulimia, it can exacerbate it. Excessive bodyweight or bodyweight that is too low leads to substances being processed differently in the human organism. In scientific literature, cases are described where a strict diet and regular exercise were the main factors in curing type II diabetes. She pointed out that a healthy diet should not be confused with the range of drastic “diets” which are predominant on various Internet portals. For renal patients it is especially important to follow the recommendations of their doctor.

The participants found the lecture very interesting and asked many questions regarding their nutrition and active lifestyle. After the almost half-day lecture, the doctor concluded: “Correct nutrition and the importance of an active lifestyle is not new information for our dialysis patients in Diaverum. We discuss every day the issues related to diet, composition of food, fluid control, and exercise. However, this information must be repeated regularly as correct nutrition and an active lifestyle are so important for renal patients.”

The rest of the camping days the participants enjoyed leisure to find inspiration and gather new strength. They organised walks through the surrounding countryside and woods, enjoying the pure pine forest air and the fresh water of the lake, picking mushrooms and berries. Howeve, the mushrooms and berries were scarce – apparently it was not the right time. A special highlight during these days was the sports competition. To the pleasure of the audience it was opened by the Greek mythological god Zeus together with the love goddess Aphrodite and Prometheus.

Nina Balechova, Diaverum Kaunas patient and active supporter of Gyvastis, is very satisfied with this year´s patient camp: “Each year more people are joining this event since it is a pleasure to meet and socialise in an informal setting. All of us have a different health history, our approach to the disease may differ, and the reasons for joining the Gyvastis association are many. However, we are united by one common feature – we are all optimists and can truly enjoy life!”

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