Archive for the ‘Cystic Fibrosis’ Tag

Unforgettable lunch unites chef, patient   Leave a comment

by Robert Grotha  (copied from

Editor’s note: Chef Robert Grotha, St. Louis Children’s Hospital food and nutrition services, describes how an encounter with a patient helped her and moved him.

Chef Robert Grotha presents food to a patient at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. | Photo by John Twombly

SLCH One of the most humbling things about working at St. Louis Children’s Hospital is the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life. Knowing that you did something that changes a person’s attitude in a challenging situation is rewarding emotionally. I believe that is the reason every employee here at SLCH is so passionate and driven.

During my patient rounding last week, I checked in at the nurse’s station, and I could tell that Genny Dillard, child life services, had a patient who was not optimistic about the food. This patient had been sick for five weeks and had lost her appetite.

At times it can be rather intimidating entering a patient’s room, due to the fact it is a personal environment, but I knew that I had to follow up.

I knocked and appropriately entered the room. Emily was rather shy, so I lightened the mood with a joke and began to explore the reasoning behind her reluctance to eat. She was not interested in providing information in regard to our Bruce the Moose menu, so I proposed a trade — information in trade for a personalized meal.

I asked Emily, if she could have anything, what would she request, still to no avail. I referenced a few of my favorite foods to provide ideas and mentioned some nostalgic food memories from my childhood. She proceeded to describe a white chicken chili that her mother used to make every winter that made her feel divine. I told her that it would pair very nicely with a peach cobbler, and we ran with the idea. I asked what time she would prefer to eat, and I was on my way.

The next afternoon at lunchtime I wheeled my cart to 7 East and proceeded to ensure Emily had an unforgettable lunch. Her mom and friend were in the room and were thrilled that I brought enough to share. Her mom immediately called her husband and described the meal in lengthy detail. She followed up with a picture message to her girlfriends, and Emily was beaming with pride. Apparently she had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and needs more calories than she could obtain from our menu. She invited me to join her for lunch, so I spent the better part of an hour “talking shop.”

The information I obtained was critical in addressing some areas of improvement with our menu, specifically for our kiddos with CF. I called a meeting with some of the representatives in the food and nutrition department, and we brainstormed some ideas fueled by Emily’s insight. She joked that the chili wasn’t as good as her mother’s, but it wasn’t half bad.

The following day we were distributing cookies around the floors to brighten everyone’s afternoon, and I was approached by one of the doctors on the seventh floor. He informed me that the personal lunch was well received by Emily and her family. He noted that it was much easier to provide care for her, and she was much more receptive to her treatments. I kinda choked up for a moment and knew that, for one afternoon and for one patient, I truly helped.