“Chips and boiled potato?” – why can hospitals not feed people with intolerances and special diets 

In case you’re wondering I’m still in hospital.

Frustrated is the only word for it. I genuinely have no idea what’s going on, what caused these problems and why I’m still in this bloody place.

People keep telling me to relax, take my mind off it, use it as a chance for a break. Why not write your novel or sort out some of the trips you always talk about – yeh, because penning a best seller surrounded by people vomiting, pooing and machines going off 24/7 on two hours sleep is totally achievable, right?

As you can tell I’m beyond fed up, which means I am getting better.

Yes I’ve still got pain (I would no discribe it as discomfort) and I feel like crap, but I’m not ill enough to be taking up a precious hospital bed.

As far as I can see the reason I’m in here still is my ostomy output is liquid as soup. But that’s mainly because, as per usual, the NHS simply cannot understand my intolerance enough to feed me.

I’m in a total catch 22 dilemma. My output won’t go back to normal until I eat normally, but I can’t do that while I’m in here, which is something I can’t seem to get into anyone’s head – it is genuinely like I’m speaking in Chinese.

The fact is that despite being diagnosed lactose intolerant in a hospital they have never ever coped with it – something about having an allergy makes no sense to the health service.

 

the normal option for me – eventually found me some sunflower spread

  

just sausages love?

  

you can have the fish but no sauce – yucky

  

first proper meal since ive been in – but i struggled

  

ensure drinks

 
To make it worse as my Stoma has been playing up I’ve gone back to my low res diet to help it, something they simply don’t understand.

 Many of the sandwiches are brown bread and have sweetcorn in them, and curry is usually on the menu – despite the fact this is a surgical ward and many people have just had Stoma surgery!

Seriously the mum opposite me was handed her first meal after having her Stoma and it was lentil soup – I told her not to bother.

While resturants have adapted to intolerances and allergies over the years hospitals have thrown their hands up and said, “well, their relatives will have to feed them”!

But what if you’re on your own (like me)….well you simply starve.

Starving might be a little bit over the top, but after 52 hours of being nil by mouth my choices in the Cardiff hospital have been quite frankly ludicrous.

In the past few days while everyone else has had the choices of sandwiches and three hot dishes and a pudding, the poor catering staff has approached my bed like a sniper picking out his target, saying:

Him: “Cauliflower?” 
Me: (trying not to laugh) is that all I can have?

Him: “cauliflower with gravy?”

Me: (giving up and taking pity on him) ok!

Another:

Him: “sausages?”

Me: can I have something with that?

Him: “gravy?”

Yesterday tea time:

Him: “boiled potato?”

Me: no, can I have some Rice Krispies and soya milk?

Basically since I’ve been able to eat in here I’ve survived off Rice Krispies, the dry insides of tiny jacket potatoes, boiled potatoes and gravy – oh and on one occasion some very dry fish which made me sick. 

I’ve even been offered in a moment that made me laugh so hard it brought me to tears (tears of total frustration) “boiled potatoes and chips” – I reached cracking point then.

It’s not just in Wales, England too stares opened mouthed at me in horror at my intolerance – I’ve been fed dry tuna for days on end – but they did have menus for you to choose and plaster LACTOSE FREE across it so the kitchen at least knew. Here it’s cooked on every ward and you have to eat what you get.

It simply makes no sense. To me a key part of being well is my diet, in fact it is what makes me well and is often the element of my life which is keeps my bowel working and makes me happy.

I can get better without the right food, I can’t heal, and I can’t put on weight. I’m forcing down ensure drinks to keep myself in shape, and I’ve already lost all my hard work from the last six months of gym work and training and I’m back to 7.6 – down from 8st 1 a weight I’d never achieved before.

I’m angry, it upsets me, it drives me around the bend. I simply don’t understand how they get nutrition so damn wrong and find it so hard.

Yes we are not expecting caviar and champagne, but simply a bowl of pasta would suffice. Hospital food is never going to be Michelin star but it should be edible and nutritional and not be an eat this or starve situation.

Today’s lunch was the first proper meal I got, yes I hardly managed any and the chicken was tough. But it was welcome, even if it was too little too damn late.
I think that the NHS needs to seriously look at the problem of hospital food. If they got it right they would save a fortune – after all people would be stronger and getting out quicker not lie wasting away in beds.

Draft in Jamie Oliver I beg of you – but please not that Heston bloke I don’t want to be eating food that covers me in smoke or spits at me.

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6 thoughts on ““Chips and boiled potato?” – why can hospitals not feed people with intolerances and special diets 

  1. You must be feeling better to be able to get so angry! In Derby near where I live the NHS had input from James Martin to try and save hospital food and they have quite a choice of food at the Derby Royal. Not brilliant of course but better than yours sounds. Can you not put your journalistic skills into contacting him to see if he can do anything? Also my stoma nurse told me to eat jelly babies to thicken my stoma output……..it might help to get you out of there……it has worked for me but not sure about any lactose that might be in them? Get well soon….chin up…there are loads of folk routing for you. X

    • Hey that sounds fantastic – yeh I can tell I don’t need to be here anymore because I’m becoming an annoying question asker! Something really needs to happen and I will be trying to find out why the hell this is so bad – yeh I’ve given haribo a go so far, marshmallow is usually my fail safe but there is nothing in the little shop here

  2. This has happened to me every time I’ve had surgery (no output stoma, but a short bowel which – of course – gets shorter every time, with results you can well imagine) and it is such a frustrating catch-22. I’m on a low residue diet, and in theory that is catered for, but in practice it often means eating mashed potatoes and gravy two meals a day, which doesn’t help get the output under control. How I savoured breakfasts, when I got cereal and toast!

  3. Hospitals in the U.S. serve crappy food too. Can anyone bring you food from the outside? My family did when I was in the hospital. My doctors weren’t happy about it, but I didn’t care. Or can you just sign yourself out?

  4. My recent stay in hospital in N Ireland was pretty grim
    The hospital staff were amazing but the food nearly drove me insane.

    The chicken was so overlooked i struggled to cut into it. The beef was so bad I couldn’t eat it, it was tough beef that left me in hospital in first place.
    A few days after my surgery my first meal was minestrone soup loaded with chunky vegetables
    Not the best thing for a new ostomate.
    The next few days I they introduced low residue foods
    Potatoes gravy and chicken
    Potatoes gravy and beef
    Potatoes gravy and turkey
    Potatoes gravy and pork

    I was getting this for lunch at 12 and again for dinner at 5.
    I was trying my hardest to get well and gain some much needed weight but actually lost weight for the time I was there eating that food.
    It affected my mood and that’s not good when you’re just out of a major operation like that.
    They really need to re think the dietary needs for patients especially us with ibd as its vitally important for our recovery to get food food and food we can tolerate inside us when we’re in their care.

    I remember seeing the chef James Martin trying to get hospital food changed for the better but don’t think much has changed.

  5. Try being nill by mouth for a week and everyday the servers of the food handing you the menu and telling you you need to eat dispite the fact there was a sign above my bed saying NIL BY MOUTH.

    During another stay after surgery I can tell you the menu options were not very appealing and lucky for me that time around I had a boyfriend who spent an hour hunting down chicken soup broth for me. It’s a sad frustrating state that when in a gastro ward no one understands.

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