Eat, Sleep, Heal

I spent the last week watching “health care” in the works, or trying to work.  It wasn’t a pretty picture, and I suppose I could blame “the government” or the VA, or Obama, Bush, Clinton and past presidents back into time, but what good would that do?  The trouble with all the “discussion” about health care that’s going on these days is that before anyone can get to the reform part, they have to wallow in the blame part.  Whose fault is it?  Well, it’s nobody’s fault.  The system has grown, evolved and morphed into what it is today through the actions of millions of people, many of them well meaning, I’m sure.  I can’t even speak to what it would take to “reform” any of this, but that is what needs to happen.  It needs to be re-formed, made into a new shape, and there, at least, I can offer two places where re-formation would make a huge difference.


The food at the VA Hospital in Denver was uniformly nauseating and unappetizing.  How ANYONE can make waffles unappetizing is a mystery to me, but they did it.  Then, G told me that one of the nurses had said that the food for the VA is prepared offsite by PRISONERS and shipped into the hospital and delivered and it all made perfect sense.  Good lord, how could anyone eat a morsel of that “food” knowing how it was prepared and handled?

Two blocks down from the VA Hospital is a wonderful project call Denver Urban Gardens or DUG.  This is a community garden project, and there was an entire city block of fresh veggies and lovely flowers growing, just 2 blocks away.  I’m sure the “food” for the VA is shipped much farther than 2 blocks.

Sick people need good food.  They need warm, healthy, pretty, nourishing food, prepared by people who know what they are doing and WANT to do it.  It is one of my great pleasures in life to make good food for people.  To know that I have taken the raw ingredients and made a delicious meal for someone who may remember it for years to come.  That is a supreme accomplishment in my eyes, for how many meals do we eat in a year, and how many of those are memorable?

This past week, I fed G egg drop soup from our favorite Chinese restaurant, mild, yet warm and filling, easy on the tummy, and cheap to make.  Tofu and eggs are not nearly as expensive as some of the processed glop that wound up on her plate.  How can you possibly concentrate on healing when you uncover your plate and find something that looks like your dog threw up on it?  I am NOT joking.

I fed her yogurt/granola parfaits and smoothies from Starbucks.  I brought her beautiful salads from Whole Foods that did not contain a SMIDGE of iceberg lettuce.  I’m sure iceberg lettuce has a purpose but I haven’t figured it out yet.  Salad it not one of them.

The nursing staff was concerned because she was not “tolerating” the proper percentage of her meals.  Well, hell, she shouldn’t have to tolerate that crap.

Good food and good nourishment are essential to healing.  Food is the first medicine.  How hard is it really to boil some REAL potatoes in water, and mash them up in small batches and serve them warm and fresh?  Are 50 pounds of potatoes really more expensive than the equivalent amount of potato “flakes”.  I seriously doubt it.

In a perfect world, hospitals would be built not only with their own kitchens, but also their own kitchen gardens.  Menu planning would be real, based on surveys taken of the patients during pre-op, guided certainly by the medical condition and eating ability after whatever procedure the patient had.  And, if someone simply didn’t feel like eating, they wouldn’t have to.  Perhaps they would prefer to sleep, which brings me to the next point.


Have you ever tried to sleep in a hospital?  I was a rape crisis counselor for a major trauma center in Atlanta for a couple of years.  I spent my volunteer time up in the med student quarters, like a dorm room with bed and TV, where I dozed until a call for a counselor came in.  Even in that relatively removed atmosphere, it was impossible to sleep.

Of course, when you are sporting stitches, it’s going to be hard to sleep.  But everything about a hospital conspires AGAINST the patient getting an element that is vital to actual healing, i.e. rest.  Beeping, hissing, squeaking, buzzing, sighing–and that’s just the machines.  The zizzzz of so-called “privacy” curtains being shoved back and forth.  People slamming in and out of the room to drop off the dreaded “meal” tray.  The mentally-challenged cleaning woman who was perfectly nice, but had no idea about volume control as she banged and clanged the metal trash cans, flushed the toilet a number of times, slopped around the dirty mop water (don’t get me started) and sprayed enough chemical spray in the air to disinfect China.

Obviously, these things do need to be done, but there must be a better way.  One, get rid of mops and mop water!  Ye gods, how can anyone think that is “clean”?  I mean, I am FAR from a clean freak, but all I could do as I sat in my oh, so uncomfortable chair, was look at the ancient linoleum and envision just what might be growing in the cracks.  Dear God.  I can’t even bear to think about it now.

Rest is essential to health.  Sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture in military operations.  So why wouldn’t you want to somehow make a hospital stay conducive to at least a little bit of rest?  Even if you are going to be there only 24 hours, there ought to be some kind of “quiet” time where NO ONE goes into a patient’s room unless they are specifically called in by the patient.  Again, there are always special cases, but that’s why they have ICU, right?

So, think about it–you’re having a medical procedure and you’re naturally rather concerned and on the edgy side anyway.  Maybe 2 weeks before you go in, you have preop, where you not only get the necessary medical tests, blood draws, etc, but someone actually asks you what you like to eat, WHEN you prefer to eat, what kind of pillow you like, if you like quiet or music, if you prefer early breakfast or late breakfast, etc.  Imagine how that would make you feel towards your upcoming stay?  Maybe a little better?  Just a TEENSY bit?

And then, you’re there, you’re done, and after waking up, getting settled into the bed, getting acquainted with the staff, someone brings you a tray.  You lift the cover of the plate and wonderful, homey, appetizing aromas greet you.  Suddenly, the queasy feeling in your stomach goes away and you realize you are actually hungry.  Eagerly, you finish all of your meal.  After the tray is gone, you lie back on a pillow that holds your head just right.  You can adjust the lights dimly or brightly as you prefer.  The bed seems to mold itself to your body.  You can feel the beneficial effects of the wonderful meal you have just consumed.  Cradled in comfort, you realize you are actually sleepy.  Not from sedative medication, but that good, sleepy feeling you get after a hard day’s work.  You allow your eyes to close and you drift off in a QUIET room.

Let the healing begin.



10 thoughts on “Eat, Sleep, Heal

  1. Oh you revolutionary, you!

    Yes, simple things like food and rest would go a long way to encouraging healing. I can’t believe the way that your VA is feeding patients. So very wrong. Don’t they have nutritionists, for crying out loud?

    Next time I get an email from the pres, I’m going to recommend that he put you on a VA hospital reform task force.

    Sending healing energy to G and to you…

  2. OMG the sleep issue was my BIGGEST complaint about the hospital after my hysterectomy in ’02. I didn’t sleep a wink despite my best efforts.

    All night long people were walking down the hall like it was the middle of the day SHOUTING… actually shouting to each other.

    I was so pissed off I almost threw my morphine drip at them.

    I would have too if I wasn’t already a junkie on that stuff. lol

    :::sigh…. morphine::::

  3. Having spent the last 5 years with my partner in and out of the hospital, I have determined this logical fact:
    Hospitals are places to get procedures done. The people with the skills prefer to work in them. Once immediate monitoring is complete after the procedure is done, its time to get out….FAST!
    Home is the place where healing occurs. Good food, good sleep, good care = healing.
    I read somewhere that for every day in the hospital you need at least 1 week to recoup. We should have a few more years of recouping to do.
    Hope you are both home and healing quickly. DO NOT let the hospital run the show.

  4. Happy healing, G. Get lots of rest and make sure you eat whatever GG fixes for you and then eat double for me 🙂

    Hugs to both of you and thank you for the birthday wishes!!!

  5. Cris, I agree 100%, home is the BEST place to heal (usually). However, regardless of how long or short a hospital stay is, rest and good food should not be out of the realm of possibility and getting that early on will speed the process and allow people to be released from the hospital even sooner. It’s a win-win all the way around, and it’s so darn SIMPLE.

    You should NOT need a week to recover from one DAY in the hospital (I’m sure your source is correct). That is not only absurd, but nearly criminal.

    We are so focused on all the “bells and whistles” of our health technology that we forget that it’s the really simple things that make us feel so much better in the long run.

    Thanks for your comment!


  6. Iceberg lettuce is for sinking big, ocean-going aubergines with lots of garlic.

    On the other hand, look at this.

    Meanwhilst, if I ever go to hospital, will you please, please, please give JimJim lessons on how to protect me from “death by treatment”?

    Healing energy coming to both of you.

    Blessed Be,

  7. I have always been baffled by hospital food. I’ve fortunately only stayed in a hospital when my babies were being born and both times the dietician was completely thrown by the fact that I was a vegetarian. “So, what DO you eat?”, was what she asked me. I was served runny eggs for breakfast, grilled cheese on gross white bread for lunch and mashed potatoes and salad for dinner. Serving a nursing mother that food should be a crime! I barely ate any of it. My husband and a good friend took care of my diet and I high-tailed it out of there as soon as my midwife cleared me!

  8. A tip of the hat to Earth Muffin.

    You’ve reminded me of a Quaker yearly meeting I attended decades ago at a small church run college in North Carolina.

    The kitchen staff knew that some of the “weirder” Quakers were vegetarian…whatever that is…so they tried to accommodate us.

    They strained the ground beef out of the spaghetti sauce!


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