Column: Dining my way through my hospital stay


Commentary by Ward Degler

I spent three days in the hospital last week. Seems my heart has a periodic electrical glitch called atrial fibrillation, and the doc wanted to check me out with a new medication.

The hospital is unlike any I’ve ever experienced. As far as I could tell, there were no non-private rooms. And my room was so loaded with electronic gizmos and doodads that for the longest time I was reluctant to even sit on the bed for fear I would accidentally launch us into outer space.

There was a literal parade of nurses, doctors, physician’s assistants and technicians who prodded, probed, thumped and listened to what was going on inside me. And they did this all hours of the day and night.

The day started at 5 a.m. and finally wound down at midnight. Which explained why when I got back home all I wanted to do was sleep.

In between prodding and probing, I had nothing to do but read and wonder what was going to happen next. And I could order something to eat.

From six in the morning until nine at night, I could pick up the phone and order anything I wanted from a lavish menu that would be the pride and joy of most five-star restaurants. Except for wine and salt, of course. I guess you’ll never find a salt shaker in a heart hospital.

There was a page devoted to breakfast. Everything from omelets to wraps, from everyday cereal to French toast. They even served pancakes in the shape of little hearts.

Another page offered lunch options and yet another dinner courses. There were specials for each day of the week, a surprisingly long list of desserts, and an ala carte menu that took 5 minutes to read and probably another 10 to make a decision.

Since I had nothing to do most of the time, I toyed with the idea of ordering food, especially the option of mix-and-match varieties. I thought long and hard about fulfilling a boyhood dream of having ice cream for breakfast. And for fun, how about pancakes for supper?

I did neither, of course, chicken that I am, and settled for proper meals at proper times of the day. My mother would have been proud.

I spent my time reading and pondering what the electronic monitor I was hooked up to 24/7 was actually monitoring. I was covered with stick-on metal contacts and festooned with so many wires I looked like an escapee from a Frankenstein movie.

And when I got home, I discovered I still had one metal probe stuck to my chest. I think I’ll keep it. Maybe I can still order ice cream for breakfast.

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