Thursday, October 21, 2010
Part of being in the hospital is ordering meals, usually a full day at a time. The pediatric ward of the first hospital we were at actually provided a menu/meal for both child and parent. At first, I thought I'd skip ordering for myself but on the advice of the nurses, I ordered. That turned out to be sound advice. It's not so easy to get out of the room much less get out of the building when your child is sick and confined to a hospital bed. Even when the opportunity arose such as when my husband came to visit or when my mom came to stay, I wouldn't always step out. I felt the need most of the time to stay with my boy. So having a tray delivered for both of us was the way to go.
At the second hospital, our area's Children's Hospital, things were different. A meal was only provided for the child. It was also different in other ways such as the bathroom inside the (shared) room was strictly for patient use and there was no water or coffee offered to the adults. If I had to use the restroom, even at 1:30 in the morning, I'd have to walk to the other side of the ward. And if I wanted (needed) coffee, it meant a trip to the cafeteria on floor 2. We were on floor 5. Luckily for me, my mom flew in just 3 days after my son was hospitalized so she would fetch us our coffee and food most days.
In regards to the menu, both hospitals had decent choices. I was pleasantly surprised to see words like "local" and "organic" on the menu at hospital one. Also, in the cafeteria there was an even a bigger array of healthy options such as gourmet sandwiches, many made with whole grains and lots of veggies, and a salad bar. Of course, this is not to say there wasn't an abundance of not so healthy treats such as cookies, candy and pie. Hospital two also had lots of healthy options on the children's menu. And although there wasn't any organic or local options touted, each meal was delivered with a breakdown of nutritional information. The cafeteria at hospital number two served up a few healthy choices like a garden burger on whole wheat bun and made-to-order sandwiches as well as a salad bar (oddly located at the back of the cafeteria away from the rest of the food and the registers) but the most prominent offerings were prepackaged junk food, fried food and soda. Both children's menus also offered lots of not so healthy kid favorites like traditionally prepared chicken strips, french fries, mac & cheese, etc. But you know what? It makes sense. At one point I was so desperate to get my kid to eat, I bought some M&M's and set the package on the foot of the bed where he was sure to see it. He ignored it for an entire day. I couldn't believe it. Did the lack of candy in his everyday diet make it unappealing or was it the stubborn lack of appetite he'd been battling? I wanted to take the credit but it was the lack of appetite. The next morning, after being awake for only a few minutes, he asked for the candy. I was thrilled to hand it to him - for breakfast no less! He ate it and that was that.
From that point forward my son's appetite increased but seemingly only for more junk. Cookies were a big one. I also broke down (the same day I bought the candy) and purchased the pudding cups that don't require refrigeration... ugh! But seriously, it became a matter of survival in my mind. I even expressed my concern (guilt) with the doctors. They agreed I was doing the right thing. He needed to eat, period. As he started to feel better, he'd surely go back to his usual diet. And now being home for a five or so days, he has. Instead of a cookie, he eats a cheese stick. Instead of polyester pudding, he eats a yogurt. Our treats are getting back to occasional and more in line with my medium food mama philosophy.
My son's illness, the hospital stay and subsequent recovery has not only reminded me of how fragile life is but how appropriate the "everything in moderation" motto is. I do my best to reduce processed foods, make as much from scratch as I can and make educated choices upon buying our food but when you're in a position of little to no choice and/or desperate to get your baby to eat, you shouldn't fret. I continued to do my best but if it was cookies and chocolate milk he wanted, that's what he got. And, by extension, if it was cookies and coffee I wanted then that's what I had. Okay, not the same at all. I could have made better choices for myself but a few weeks of up and down eating for stressed out mom is forgivable right?
On a non-food related note for those interested, my son had severe pneumonia and an Empyema, a complication of pneumonia. Click here for a great explanation of Empyema. My son had the catheter procedure first and chest tube and video-assisted minimal access surgery second. Although, some consider Empyema rare, our Children's hospital sees 2 to 3 cases a month. It doesn't happen all the time (about 20%) but it's a reminder that a common cold or flu can lead to a much more serious situation.