Thursday, June 10, 2010

Whatever Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger

All this talk about health care reform and yet, not a single line of the new health care bill is dedicated to the most important issue facing Americans today—hospital food. The house and senate have put together this monstrous package of legalese and yet they leave out something as critical as this? I tell you, it is enough to make me lose my faith in government. I for one am not going to stand for this. I have put together my own set of issues that need to be lobbied. Join with me and take a stand against the tragedy that has corrupted U.S. hospitals for generations—the chow.

I have only had to stay in the hospital a few times, and each time that I break out of there I am glad to get away; mostly because I am starving. On one extended stay I had my sister sneak in Cinnabon cinnamon rolls and dare I say, had she not brought me sustenance I would still be in that hospital today. Too weak and depleted to make my bed sheet into a rope and hang it out the window for my escape.

Not all the hospital food is bad, just the stuff they serve to the patients. If you are a patient you may be asking yourself: what have I done to deserve this? Or, why me? Or, why is my nurse/doctor trying to kill me? These are all legitimate questions, and trust me, you are not alone. There are more of us. Those of us who have refused to eat gummy oatmeal or soupy cream of wheat, or that inedible concoction known as goulash that sits in your colon stagnating for days trying to decide if it will use the entrance or exit to get out of your body. We hear your cries; there is no need to suffer alone. After all, you have a telephone in the room, phone a friend and cry to them.

Ok, so you may have other questions, like why is all hospital food the same temperature? The nurse will bring you a little tray and whip the lid off as if to say “Ta-Da!” Only to serve you a thimble of apple juice (with saran wrap over the top) and a cup of broth (other-wise known as a bullion cube floating in tap water) and both items are the same temperature—78 degrees. I know that something can be done about this. Hospital staff can take a picture of the brain, remove miscellaneous organs, and reattach limbs--surely they can refrigerate juice and microwave soup.

It says something when the hospital’s competition is school cafeterias, airplane food, and prison rations. I have tasted fresher MRE’s that my uncle brought back from Vietnam than the meals I received while on an extended stay in the infirmary. One thing that would really improve the quality of provisions at the hospital is to go for the real stuff. No more powdered potatoes, no more powdered eggs, no more powdered soup. And for the love of all that is holy, just say ‘no’ to mystery meat. No one knows what mystery meat is, not even the chef, and as patients we just want something we can describe easily to the life-insurance people. Is that too much to ask?

If you ask people, what word comes to mind when you say hospital food? Most of them will say Jell-O, Jell-O, and more Jell-O. Is Jell-O even a food? It can’t even be classified as a liquid or a solid so how can it be put in the category of food? And what the hospital does to it makes it worse. For example, carrots in Jell-O is a crime against humanity. No one is going to eat more veggies just because you cover it in gelatinous substance and call it dessert. People all over the country are hi-jacking wheelchairs to make their getaway from hospital Jell-O. I am patently against any food that resembles phlegm. This includes, but is not limited to: tapioca, mussels, clams, tofu, cooked spinach, oysters, and of course, Jell-O.

A few more things we need to address at the hospital cafeteria: Dinner rolls should not be able to double as weapons, gravy should not be neon green, and roast beef should be easily identifiable. Foods that look like they have already been eaten and regurgitated should be taken off the menu. If you cannot easily recognize the food on your plate, there is a problem. It makes you wonder if you were really sick when you checked in or if the food is making you that way. Did they, or did they not, take an oath to ‘first do no harm?’ The food is supposed to be dead, not me. At least doctors get those little hermetically sealed sandwiches cut into triangles with the contents visible and labeled on a sticker. At the very least, I want to eat what the doctors are eating, because they are not as expendable as patients.

When a friend of mine was in the sickbay recently they served her lentil loaf. If you have never seen anything as exotic as lentil loaf before let me give you a mental picture--imagine meatloaf with gangrene. That was the meal my friend was served at the hospital on her birthday. It turns out, both her and the lentil loaf were the same age. Seeing that concoction on her lunch tray gave me the urge to dial 911. When she prayed for lunch, it was less like saying grace and more like a request for mercy.

Another question I have for the hospital lunch lady: Why does all hospital food taste the same? Whether you have the turkey sandwich or the tomato soup it all tastes like a mixture of Lysol and medical waste. Forget about where’s the beef, I want to know where the salt is? Let’s get crazy in that hospital kitchen and add some seasoning. Additionally, food should not make sounds. When you move a fork across your plate, the food should not make a noise like it is still alive . . . and suffering. Food should not make a slurping, sloshing, or wheezing clatter. In fact, I am pretty sure it should not talk to you at all.

What I think they need is a hospital mini-bar. Although you would have to remind visitors not to eat from the mini-bar, because a Kit-Kat would cost you $27 and a Dr. Pepper would probably be around $85. However, that is the same price hospitals charge for a box of tissue and those little plastic water pitchers that you “get” to take home with you, so really it is a bargain. Hospitals could even fill the mini-bar with food that is good for you, like fresh fruit and granola. Also in the self-serve section should be those pain medication pumps. You could choose the medicine you want to drip into your IV. Hook me up to one of those and I will stop complaining about the food, I’d be down like a water buffalo hit by a tranquilizer dart. In conclusion, I think that sums up what we all want during a hospital stay, less food and more drugs.