Saturday, 14 July 2012

Human Guinea Pig: Part 5 - Dinner at the Hospital

This is the fifth part of the story about my overnight stay in the hospital's research department, having lots of tests to look at the effect my pituitary tumour is having on my body and metabolism. Here are links to: part one, part two, part three and part four (I do go on).

Dinner at the Hospital

After a hurried trot back from the MRI department, I was dropped off at my room, ten minutes late for my dinner. The timing of this dinner was apparently important because it had been prepared just for me, and was apparently perfectly calibrated to contain exactly the right amount of calories for someone of my height and weight. I was allowed to eat the prepared meal only, nothing else, because they planned to monitor my metabolism and blood sugar levels in the morning and needed these to be unaffected by what I had eaten the night before.

I had barely had time to change out of my ridiculous scrubs and re-attach my Actiheart monitor when the night nurse's head appeared around the doorframe. "We're just heating your meal," she said, in a firm, no-nonsense voice. "You will be expected to eat all of it, you understand?"

And, with a stern look at me, she left. A few minutes later, she reappeared, tray in hand.

 Every dish had a label to show who it was for and when I should eat it, even to the extent that the milk for my evening (decaff) coffee had been measured out in advance, and I was not permitted any more. The main meal was, happily, spaghetti bolognese, one of my favourites.

But when I saw the dessert, my heart sank.

Close friends and family are aware that when it comes to desserts, I am usually more than enthusiastic in my appreciation of the culinary arts (unless it's cheesecake. Eurgh). However, I have a few basic rules. I don't eat jelly with sponge cake. I don't eat sponge cake with fruit.* And I don't eat fruit with jelly.

Here is a picture of the dessert:

In case you can't tell, it's strawberry jelly with tinned mandarin slices. NOOOOOO!
In fairness, it was partly my fault: the hospital did ask me whether I had any dietary requirements or dislikes, and I said no, because it would be strange and embarassing to have to explain my dessert law triad to a doctor. At least it wasn't cheesecake.

And so, I settled down to sup with good grace and managed to eat the entire thing. I did my utmost to separate the jelly from the mandarin segments wherever possible; where it was not possible, I adopted the approach to eating which has been popularised by the Burmese python, and gulped it down in one bite.

I don't know if the night nurse noticed my face fall when I saw the dessert, or whether she just thought I looked like an untrustworthy character, but she kept sticking her head around the door at unexpected moments while I was eating.

"Take your time," she said, smiling. "But you do have to eat it all."
"Ok, thanks," I replied.
My special tray!
Two minutes later, she popped up again. "You can take your time," she said. "Take as long as you want. But make sure you eat it all."

 And so on. It was very disconcerting. The constant visits created a weird kind of feedback loop where I found myself choking down the mouthfuls as quickly as possible in the hopes that she would finally stop telling me I could eat as slowly as I liked.

Eventually, I was done, and I had the evening to myself. I harassed my parents and boyfriend with text messages about jelly and fruit, read about the exploits of Mr Sherlock Holmes on my Kobo e-reader (which I LOVE), and flicked through TV channels. Eleven o'clock was lights-out and the terrifying night nurse came back again to confiscate my water and order me to pee in a jug overnight,** which was probably the moment I most felt like I was in prison.

Adding to this impression was the fact that my door had a small square window in it which opened onto the corridor and let an annoying amount of light in overnight, and the absurdly thin blanket on the bed. I often get chilly at night and hospitals are not cosy places, so I had brought my warmest hoody to wear in bed over my pyjamas, but I still woke up in the night absolutely freezing and had to ask for another blanket. This is extra annoying considering that hyperthyroidism is supposed to make you too hot, not too cold. In fact, I was given a questionaire about my symptoms, and one of the questions asked me to score my "heat intolerance" on a scale of 0-5, where 0 is no intolerance to heat and 5 is getting easily overheated. I wanted to add a -1 to the scale.

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*For those of you who really care about my pudding pickiness, I should note here that this rule only applies where the fruit makes the sponge cake all damp and hideous. I like fruit baked into cakes just fine. Fruit placed on top of a waterproof layer of icing is also acceptable. Trifle is the devil's pie.

**Not just for her own amusement; they did a 12 hour urine collection to monitor various hormone levels overnight.

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