This past Thursday morning, we were on our way to the hospital so that my husband could get a procedure to unblock his coronary artery.
When I say morning, I mean 5 am. Being a night owl, this put a cramp in my style, to say the least. But I’m sure that anyone who has had to have a procedure or surgery knows, it’s all about convenience for the hospital, not for you.
It sure wasn’t convenient for my dietary restrictions. When the doctor told us my husband would be staying overnight, I decided to stay with him. Not only for moral support, but because I didn’t really want to navigate downtown Nashville on my own, even with my GPS; especially with such a lack of sleep. About 5 hours sleep, to be exact.
The day before, I had purchased a small cooler in anticipation of bringing my own food. A previous stay of five days when he was diagnosed with heart disease proved to me that hospitals don’t cater to those of us with dietary restrictions.
During that stay, I took the chance and ate a salad with grilled chicken from the food court. Luckily, I did not get sick. But this time, I prepared ahead and brought my own lunch, dinner and breakfast options.
I ate a Larabar for breakfast that morning, even though my stomach was bit queasy from lack of sleep. Larabars are really great for a quick meal replacement. My favorite is the chocolate peanut butter.
We packed an overnight bag the night before. Unfortunately, the one thing I forgot to pack was tea bags. I gave up coffee over three years ago. I learned on this trip that nurses do not drink tea. There was hot water in the waiting room but no tea bags??? Ok, I thought, I guess I will make a trip down to the food court, which opened at 8 am.
I did manage to find tea-yay! I took an extra tea bag for the next morning and paid my 93 cents. They did not take my husband down for his procedure until 9:30 am. So much for getting up at 4 am and being there by 6 am. Ah, bureaucracy!
While I was waiting, I ate the ham and dairy free cheese sandwich that I had brought with me . I was starving by that point, and made another trip downstairs to the food court for a Dr. Pepper. I usually don’t drink soda, but I made an exception. I desperately needed the caffeine.
After a successful procedure, he was moved to a private room around 3 pm. I ate the salad and grilled chicken that I had brought around 4 pm. I had also made my own Russian salad dressing (ketchup and mayo) as most bottled dressings have either dairy, honey or sometimes gluten.
He was released to go home the next morning. For breakfast, I had another Larabar and another cup of tepid tea (hot water from the tap). I was glad to go home, and back to my own kitchen.
But all of this makes me wonder what would happen if I were hospitalized? Would I be able to get gluten, dairy, and allergen free meals? Someone on Facebook wrote that her son was hospitalized, and she had to bring in food for him. That’s really a sad commentary. With all of the people nowadays that have food allergens, you would think hospitals would not want to create more problems for those people; not to mention family members.
I couldn’t even have a hot meal-no way to heat it up. I suppose if I asked nicely a nurse would have let me use their microwave. But should I have to deal with that? Why don’t the food courts have allergen free options? In fact, they have mostly junk. And the “diet” that the hospital put my husband on, that was supposedly heart healthy was anything but. You would think that a hospital would have healthy food choices. Or maybe I’m just dreaming.
I am hoping that there are changes coming soon. Gluten and dairy free options at restaurants are slowly becoming easier to find. Maybe hospitals will take a cue from this and begin to offer allergen free options to patients and families. That would take a tremendous burden off of the sick, and those who care for them.