Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Institutional Food, Again

After being MIA for about 2 weeks, I'm starting to think about food and health again.

Recently I started throwing up blood (which I hadn't done for 6 years), and my sister called 911 for an ambulance. They took me to the local hospital (where they don't have an endoscopy team) so they transferred me to Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC, about a 2-1/2 hour drive. There they put me on a ventilator in order to do an EGD to stop the bleeding without possibly obstructing my airway, and I NEVER want to be on a ventilator again. To awaken and find my wrists and ankles tied down, and a balloon-feeling thing in my throat was frightening.

They repaired a Mallory-Weiss Tear (usually caused by forceful or long-term vomiting or coughing) and a small adjacent arterial bleeder in my stomach. I spent 2 days in ICU, and almost a week in a regular room. I have enough punctures from IV's and blood draws and blood sugar finger pricks that I look like I was fighting with a porcupine and lost. Both arms are black and blue from the armpit to my fingers. 

For 4 days I was only allowed a plain liquid diet, and that was unpleasant. Most liquid things available were high in HFCS or sugars, and high in sodium.
Institutional Food, BLECK! This hospital, part of a medical school, was better than most I've seen, and they even have a gluten-free section on the menu. That encourages me to think not ALL institutions are destined to serve swill.

I did have a decent slice of grilled salmon with a baked potato and broccoli once I was allowed solid food. 

When they discharged me, the hospital sent me back to Virginia via Greyhound, to the bus station downtown last night. Fortunately my neighbor had the day off and drove into town to fetch me. We have a foot of snow on the ground, and it was 10º here yesterday early in the morning, whereas it was a balmy 45º when I left Winston-Salem in the afternoon. I'm glad to be home, though.

They discovered I have a small aneurysm on the aortic arch, which we will watch and probably repair in 3 months unless it gets worse sooner.

In the meantime, my doctors said my recuperation will be slow. All the UTI-kidney problems I had back in November and December are part of the overall trauma that led up to this. I have zero energy, and I'm sleeping 15-20 hours a day. Some of that is due to the medications, which will not continue for very long (I hope). 

I go back in 2 days for a hospital follow-up, more blood work, and a full pulmonary function test. Then I have some appointments booked in March, and in May we may do the surgical repair of the aneurysm if I have healed enough. Thankfully, it's half the distance I was driving for medical care at UVA medical school and I really liked the medical team approach at Wake Forest. I'm cancelling the appointments already scheduled next week at UVa since the Wake Forest appointments are for the same things.

UVa and Wake Forest are ranked almost the same in Medical School Rankings. Of course, I worked many years for the #1 ranked medical school, Johns Hopkins, so I have a bias... but Hopkins is too far away for me to seek treatment there.

I have to draft and print a copy of the dietary protocol I follow for my digestive health doctor, and it may prove to be fodder for a post here. My docs spent a lot of time trying to get my electrolytes balanced, and my hemaglobin up. They seem to think the imbalance was from extended body trauma and not my diet, from what I could tell them I eat. This is the first time I've seen Residents, Fellows, and Doctors willing to discuss food/diet that's NOT the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). Of course that wasn't ALL of them, but quite a few.


  1. I've been wondering where you were, worried that you'd had a health flair-up. Oof, some big stuff, too. Rest well & heal. And stay in touch. :-)

  2. For heavens sakes! So glad you are back.

  3. So sorry to hear how rough it's been -- and so glad to hear that you are on the mend! Sounds like sleep and your own healthy foods are the very best treatment you could get at this point :-)

  4. What an ordeal!! And because I live close enough to a hospital, during my last 2 incarcerations, I had my DH bring real food and kefir probiotics in for me.

    How lucky to have doctors actually interested in your food and diet! Maybe there is hope in that area....

    I do hope you recover well, and at your own pace. I've missed your posts!!

  5. I've been wondering too how you've been. I'm sorry to hear you were run through the wringer, but glad to know you've made it back home and have a plan in place. Sending you best wishes for continued recovery.

  6. I had the first of several follow-up appointments yesterday, and the prognostic news is discouraging.

    What's even worse is that I KNOW I eat better than 95% of most people, yet my lab tests show hemoglobin, hematocrit, platelets, white and red blood cell count, phosphorus and iron are all way below normal.

    My potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, chloride, and protein levels are all barely in the low-low-normal range.

    I need to push my medical team to help me figure out WHY my body isn't processing and utilizing these components, and it may be a long haul.

  7. Yikes! I'm glad you're back and on the mend! Sounds like a rough ride.


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