Guest post: Patient, heal thyself (part 3)

Greek-yogurt-blueberries-maplesyrup-walnuts

I had intended to continue sharing my recent benefits from switching in April to the ‘Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type’ plan, when last weekend put my intentions on hold. However, there was the added benefit of an experience important to all of us who need to watch what we eat, so I will share some of what occurred in this post.

While helping my partner erect an aluminum (aluminium, for those northwest of here) and plexi winter garden house, I suffered what appeared to be the beginnings of a heart attack. Germany has one very important aspect to their health care which I applaud: if the call is of a serious nature, an ambulance with a doctor on board is also dispatched to the scene. I won’t take you through the hooking up of a colourful assortment of tubes and such, and just say that after Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride through the German countryside, I arrived at a hospital with a highly-regarded cardio unit, where I spent several hours on monitors and bleeding into little glass tubes, on demand.

Upon determining that I was not in immediate danger, I was sent upstairs to a room, where they brought me the evening’s repast.  Before continuing your digestion of this post, I suggest making certain that you are in a comfortable chair, as what I am about to share will stagger the imagination of most, and might even cause one to stagger in a literal sense. A caution has been made.

Dinner, for a person who has just arrived in the hospital’s cardio wing, and was under strict monitoring, was: two slices of bread, a slice of Emmentaler cheese (like Swiss cheese), three assorted slices of cold cuts, including salami, bologna and one that was unidentifiable, to me, and three tablespoons of watery yogurt.  There were also two packets of mustard and a small cube of butter.  No, I didn’t miss anything and I even looked under the tray, to be certain of this.

If you are a Type A person and you have already started the program, and know what the dos and don’ts are, you would recognize only the yogurt as being of any benefit, while the rest of the lot are absolute ‘don’ts.’  I mentioned this to the night nurse who remarked, ‘Everybody gets the same. No special treatment.’  Having passed two very elderly women in wheelchairs, as they were bringing me to my room, I wondered how they expected these two souls to be nurtured back to good health on such a meagre and very unhealthy diet.

Serving the least amount of food, with no regard to nutrition, is endemic in German hospitals and I have personally witnessed this in three other medical establishments. I have also asked physicians how they expect their patients to heal without proper nutrition, but they just shake their heads in a ‘it’s not my problem’ way. It is not a German attribute to rock the boat, so it is likely the insurance plan most patients are subscribed to determines costs for such things.  It goes to prove the point that when bean-counters enter the picture, all compassion disappears. But, I digress.

Due to many issues, I had a sleepless night, one of which was being denied a sleeping pill, because, as the night nurse put it: ‘You are asking too late.’ Had I known my roommate could rattle the rafters with his snoring, I might have asked when I came to the room. But, unarmed with such important information, I was left without the necessary tool to overcome this obstacle and spent the night awake.

In the very early morning hours, nurses came to take blood and chose to poke a new hole in my other hand, although all previous blood samples had been taken from the hand with the nifty accoutrement that had been attached to me in the comfort of my best chair, the day before. Then, a young male nurse came to take my blood pressure, after which he presented a needle.  When I asked what it was for, he told me it was to prevent thrombosis’ to which I replied: ‘No.’  I saw no need to have this additional toxin in my body, when I was still ambulatory and was not bedridden. He was perplexed, but he didn’t force the issue.

Later in the morning, one of the cardio doctors came to see me and spent some time telling me that I had not suffered a heart attack, stroke or anything severe enough to leave a telltale message in my system.  The numbers they were giving me were the same as I had received from my cardio specialist, during my annual checkup in June, so I breathed a sigh of relief, and told her I wanted to go home. I was immediately counseled on the possible ‘consequences’ of such a decision, in view of their desire to keep me for observation and further tests, all of which I had experienced in June, and passed with flying colors. I then told her about my sleepless night, which seemed to go right past her, without reaction or comment.

The young doctor was adamant that I stay put, so I shared with her the details of my morning meal, which was: a slice of what looked like a mixed deli meat, two bread rolls, two packets of processed jelly, a cube of butter and three tablespoons of yogurt. I then continued with a description of the all important mid-day meal that had been brought to me, which was a vegetable consume, including remnants of carrots, potatoes and beans with a long, beef sausage placed in the middle of the bowl, a packet of mustard and two pieces of stale bread.  After sharing these details with her, I told her about my eating plan and how it had cleared up two issues for me, which all of the ingredients the hospital had offered were sure to bring back to the fold. She shrugged in a kind of ‘what do you want me to do about it’ way, although I surmised that she was already thinking in her mind that there had to be some prescription that would do the trick rather well, in place of nutritious food.

When I asked her how she felt about serving the kind of food that was presented, to a person presumed to have a heart issue (after all, the did want to keep me for observation), she changed the topic back to the issue of ‘the possible consequences of going home.’

I thought about it and came to the realization that if I stayed there for the recommended period of time, taking the drugs they wanted me to ingest, in spite of showing no symptoms requiring drugs, and eating their food, I would have other serious issues returning to my life. I opted to leave, after telling her that I would much prefer to expire at home, eating healthy food, rather than in a hospital’s cold, dispassionate environment, while slowly being poisoned.  She was not amused.

There were forms to fill out, more cautions expressed and then I was able to step outdoors, in the cool, dark afternoon, accompanied by my partner, who had brought one of our fun cars as a treat, in which to bring me home.  The first breath of fresh air was rejuvenating and I continued to feel better during the ride home, in spite of my lack of sleep.

For that first meal upon my return to our home, I chose a breakfast meal of freshly chopped walnuts, Greek yogurt and blueberries. I also added a small dollop of maple syrup, which has been my sweetener of choice for more than thirty years. In the photo, you will see that I used frozen blueberries, as we are out of season for fresh, here, and I rather like having them year round. Frozen also allows me to vary the types of berries I use during the winter months, and allows me to thaw just what I need to avoid any spoilage, as well as providing a sugar-free juice from the thawing process.

I did see my GP this week and he reviewed the information about my adventure and came to the conclusion that, since this was a one-off event, that I should take it easy, lessen my work load some and give stressful situations a boot in the behind. I do have a tendency to work like I am still twenty-three, which is not to my benefit, now, and I had been overdoing it for a couple of weeks, even though I was experiencing a cold. My instinct tells me that it was just overloading the system with commitments and physical stress that caused my body to stop functioning at its optimum. When pressed for a reply, my GP begrudgingly admitted that leaving the hospital was a good idea, in this circumstance.

The point of sharing this experience is to demonstrate that in all cases, we will be responsible for our own health, even in an environment that is supposed to consider all aspects of our health its foremost concern.

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3 responses to “Guest post: Patient, heal thyself (part 3)

  1. It’s very true, the food they serve in hospitals is not only unhealthful but unappetizing and just plain bad. Shame on them. Hope you are feeling better,

    • Exactly. And it’s always grey in colour for some reason. Imagine how much faster people would heal with good, appealing, real food…

      • In the late sixties, as a young lad, I was a passenger in a rather horrible automobile accident, in upstate New York. After weeks in ICU I was sent to a room overlooking trees and a distant Lake Champlain. Because of the publicity, I guess, they gave me a private room, so I already felt pampered. On the morning when I was told I could have ‘real’ food I found a note on my breakfast tray, from the head of the kitchen, asking me what I would like for my ‘first dinner.’ I asked for the moon, hoping for something between here and there. When it arrived I was stunned: it was a thick, juicy steak, baked potato with real butter and peas – exactly the meal for which I had asked. In the weeks and months that followed, I would receive many incredible meals in this hospital and when I took my wheelchair around to visit other boys on the orthopedic floor, I found that we were all eating this well and it made a huge difference in our recovery. Meals were something to which we could look forward and there was abundant nutrition on the menu, everyday. Fifty-plus years can sure make a difference, can’t it?

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