Sunday, May 16, 2010

Room Service, But No Mints on the Pillows

I was asked yesterday, "Did you find crack in the parking structure???" since I was seemingly inappropriately tickled by some of my experiences at a local hospital as I offered support and diversion to a loved one. Giddy creature that I can sometimes be -- especially since there is significant improvement in the anonymous-by-choice patient's condition since Friday night's admit -- rather than bemoaning the loss of a planned trip and acting sullen with disappointment, I've been finding amusement where I can. It's the little things ....

For example, a very kind staff member stopped by before I left to offer bedtime snacks. Unfortunately he was out of chocolate pudding, but he had everything else from Lorna Doones to vanilla pudding to yogurt to granola bars. Our patient chose a Rice Krispies Treat, and then the very generous man asked lil' ol' moi whether *I* might like something as well ... how utterly charming! "Oh, that would be wonderful -- thank you so much!" I've been hearing the call of Fig Newtons for a week or so, and thus it seemed like divine intervention that they might be brought literally to my doorstep ... or, at least, to my chair in the hospital room.

I am also completely enthralled by the ice cream vending machine near the cafeteria, which offers the usual array of Strawberry Shortcakes and Fudge Bars and Creamsicles. But it also offers 4 kinds of ice cream sandwiches -- vanilla, chocolate, Neopolitan, and also one with strawberry-jam-swirled ice cream surrounded by vanilla-flavored cookies -- a veritable buffet! And it is a diversion that just begs to have kids witness its action:

1. Put in your money ($1.50 -- but it's a good-sized treat, longer and fatter than most ... and I was a captive audience).

2. Make your selection.

3. Watch through a window as the freezer door opens and a vacuum tube sucks up your treat and dumps it into the chute, much the way that the infamous claw machines work.

Far more entertaining than watching vital signs be taken or waiting for lab results, the ice cream machine is going to be the patient's field trip today, health and stamina permitting!

But the day wasn't all about sweets and treats. For lunch, "Room Service" brought our patient a tray filled with a slice of turkey with gravy, peas, wild rice, a roll, a cup of minestrone, and an apple; the person who'd occupied the bed the day before and filled out the meal request seems to have been fairly interested in substantial but nutritious food. And although hospital food has a -- shall we say? -- less-than-stellar reputation, this meal actually got a good review. The nurse, Tina, found this to be endlessly entertaining and kept giggling as the compliments were offered. I'm quite certain that she doesn't usually get to personally witness such an event ... and I'm equally certain that the event doesn't occur very often, either!

When other loved ones have been hospitalized, they've always made sure to order extra food to provide me with something to eat while I am entrenched in the room trying to be helpful (or at least distracting and/or comforting). But since our patient didn't get to place orders for lunch, I needed to meander through the labyrinth and find something to eat at the cafeteria. (Note that you don't need a gym membership if you spend any time at this hospital; the place is gargantuan!) It being the weekend -- when I guess there aren't any employees, patients or visitors in need of a full array of sustenance ... pffft! -- the options were fairly limited: pizza, sushi (which, as we can see in the banner, is not on my "nice" list), yogurt, bagels, an array of cake and pie slices. But then I found pre-packaged salads, and for a reasonable price, too: $4.29 for fattoush with chicken that could have fed two people.

The greens were in exceptionally good condition, and the other vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, onion, tomatoes) were plentiful. There were strips of toasted pita bread, and tender pieces of chicken breast. With the exception of the dressing, which was kinda lemony but lacking tartness or much flavor, the salad was very good. Considering that I found it at a hospital cafeteria, I am most impressed!

Our patient actually received a call from the dietician, who offered the opportunity to choose dinner rather than eating yet another meal that had been pre-selected by the room's predecessor. I don't remember what the other options were, but spaghetti and meat sauce -- which brightened the patient's face immensely in anticipation of the meal! -- was the winner. I neglected to capture its photogenic self, but it actually did look appetizing. Served with green beans and cole slaw, every bite was eaten and still more compliments were offered to the chef. If I hadn't heard the words myself, I'm not sure I would have believed it!

The prospect of an omelette with bacon is today's enticing breakfast option (after yesterday's Corn Flakes and banana bread, which had arrived before my camera and I did). Lunch is a deli sandwich, and I don't actually remember what the dinner option is. But your faithful reporter will be on task! Ya can't say I'm not thorough, after all -- when I promise to report on all of my food experiences, from cooking to baking to restaurants and now the hospital, I'm a woman of my word!

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