Food, Laborious Food

Since my release from hospital, similar to all my other releases from hospital I have been preoccupied with two questions, am I eating and drinking enough? And what does it mean for my treatment of if do not eat or drink enough? Right now, as I type this blog, food is not my problem. Well, it is a problem in that I have been told to remain on a neutropenic diet despite my neutrophils reaching the mighty heights of 2.4, and all I really want is a large plate of salad, finished with a serving bowl size bowl of raw strawberries. Not being able to eat certain foods is a minor problem. It really is,  in the grand scheme of everything I endure, a few weeks of tinned or browned preserved food is no hardship. The substance that concerns me most in my two questions is fluids. Trust me, I did not think it would be possible to talk about drinking water as much as I have find myself talking about drinking water, but it is. I am  preoccupied with the idea that I am not drinking enough and by not drinking enough, I am wasting the NHS’s current investment in me.

I have been told to drink at least three litres of liquid a day. When one exercises and talks to a lot of people a day, I think this is an achievable goal. When you have been told to limit yourself to five minutes of exercise a day, don’t see enough people in a day to create a thirst to quench, have a mouth upholstered in a light lining of fur and a stomach reliant on antiemetics to hold anything down; three litres of liquid is a lot hold in. Trust me. When fluids are the one thing mentioned to me by any time I talk to a Medically Trained Person, I know it is important. I just do not know yet how important it is, but common sense accompanied by the almost constant talk of my creatinine levels, make me realise that not drinking enough is bad for me. Pick up any leaflet about myeloma, let alone any leaflet about allogeneic transplants and you’d need to be a scatterier thinker than I on my current medication, not to see renal or kidney failure as potential and real side effects of this distardly disease.

Last Monday, I tripped over the weighing scales in the hospital and my immediate thought was that I was dehydrated. I didn’t vocalise said thought because I wanted to come home. My blood pressure was lower than usual, and yet again, my paranoia was all over the place. Fortunately, after a three hour nap up on the 7th floor, my blood pressure had normalised.

A few mornings ago when I started writing this blog, my perception of St Bart’s Hospital was partially saved by a fake memory prompted by the app on my phone, I call The-Most-Depressing-App-In-My-Phone-That-I-Cannot-Bring-Myself-To-Delete-Because-I-Am-A-Tortured-Soul.

That fake memory did St Bart’s a favour, for it reminded me that all hospital food is bad as opposed to all of St Bart’s is bad.  A subtle difference, I will one day get around to explaining. 

Three years ago, as I waited in a hospital bed to be told I had myeloma, I was fed and said of it this: 

 Exhibit A 
Yes, that food was bad. Fortunately, at that time and the second time I was admitted to UCH, I did not want to eat a thing. I had to smell it, but I found a way round this. On T13, I also had access to kitchen facilities and a fridge. During my recent stay at St Bart’s, I did not have access to these things. Fortunately, I did not wish to eat a lot, but most unfortunately, I did want to eat something. I just really couldn’t bring myself to eat any of the following meals:

Exhibit B   Exhibit C

Exhibit D

The breakfasts were perfunctory enoug. Every day I just had cereal and entered the daily fight for a banana. On the banana front, one, being me had a 40% chance of getting a banana even if one was ordered the night before. I did ask why, on a ward where they accommodate neutropenic patients, why there was not enough bananas for each patient. Banana is after all the only budget fruit fully suitable for the neutropenic body. I kid you not, by day five I was exasperated by my lack of banana. Mother Jones had to b sent out to purchase me my own bananas because not being able to get one started my day on a sourer note than being woken up at 06:30hrs to take my medication.

So that was the breakfasts, but as for the rest? One day I was given a mixture of vegetables, and I could not identify one of the vegetables. It might have been turnip. A turnip? I think that says quite a lot about when the hospital’s menu was last updated. Can people easily purchase turnips south of the Scottish border when there is no confusion between what is suede. I do not mind old fashioned food, I’ve even been known to eat what others deem inedible food, potted hough (this is how the Internet spells it Mum) for example. The investment the NHS makes into feeding their patients however is sensationally shocking. I think patients who are deemed poorly enough to be kept in a hospital over night, deserve something that is considered more than serviceable. I don’t go in expecting Michelin Star quality, my expectations were more around the Little Chef mark, but even that was a complete overestimation. 

Life experience suggested to me that more money would be spent on Kosher or Halal meals in mass catering than your bog standard ‘English’ hospital cuisine. So a few times, despite displeasure from those around me, I experimented. The chicken korma and the lamb korma (do you sense a theme) were adaquate, but my stomach was not exactly in the place for spice even if it was mild.

My complaint is not about the staff who delivered my food. Once one of the orderlies realised why I wanted a banana (to dunk in the ‘custard’ by the way), he went out of his way to make sure I got a banana. Unfortunately, he did not work everyday.

Unlike many NHS inpatients, I am fortunate enough to have people around me capable of spending their hard earned cash bringing in food for me to eat. Mamma Jones and Big Sister spent a reasonable amount of their moolah on Marks and Spencer’s mixed nuts, among other things. In case you care, I found mixed nuts made me thirsty enough to drink. The icing on the cake, the day that pushed me over the edge however, wasthe day I was delivered two main portions, a yogurt and I do not know as one single meal. The order must have been a misunderstanding, a misunderstanding  of the language barrier type, but none of the food was remotely tasty and thus all the food was wasted. Do not believe me? I have the evidence.

Exhibit E  
I felt rather lucky that day, because within 30 minutes of reporting the mishap to my friend, one who had seen my meals over the previous two days, I had an actual nutritious meal.  My hopped on her bicycle and delivered food from Pret a Manger, along with a leftover omelette that looked nothing like the omelette served in Exhibit C. 

Whilst I was in hospital, I felt like saying, “please do not bother”. I might have even said that, but they still try to force the food upon me. Maybe Jamie Oliver needs another crusade…