Dec 28, 2009

What I learned from 2 days in the hospital

[REMINDER TO FIRST-TIME VISITORS: Be sure to read the oldest posts first. The later posts, including this one, deal only with minor details. Start with the first post, which describes the problems I faced, and then read at least the second post, which describes my special diet as a solution.]

Friday evening about 7 pm, I sneezed and had a stab of chest pain. There was no follow-up pain. At 1 am I woke up with excruciating chest pain, right side. I recognized the symptoms: collapsed lung. (I have had 16 earlier pneumothoraces, through 47 years.) I grabbed my hospital bag and cabbed to the hospital (Good Samaritan, Portland).

I was treated respectfully and competently by every person in their huge staff: physicians, nurses, physician assistants, radiology experts, and all their assistants.

Here is what I learned or confirmed from earlier experiences:

- Always have a hospital bag packed, including a novel or two for the long, boring hours, and a list of contact phone numbers.
- Discuss issues with the medical people, to attain at least general clarity, remaining willing to compromise between their caution (stay longer) and my eagerness to leave (to cut my costs and get back to work).
- At age 65, my lifestyle has paid off: Doctors found no sign of heart disease, cancer, kidney problems, liver problems, or any of the other many problems that their older patients usually have. (In the section of the hospital where I was, all the patients were gray haired; perhaps this was a Medicare wing.)
- When I don't exercise, I need very little sleep. That was good because I was so wired up and tubed up that I could barely roll over; sleep was very difficult.
- The physicians and nurses were surprised to meet a 65-year old patient who uses no pharmaceuticals. (My roommate -- who had acid reflux, heart disease and other problems -- was taking six medications daily before he needed to come to the hospital for his latest emergency [mass sweating, nausea, fainting].)

- As a result of following my anti-itis diet (fruit, vegs, and starchy roots), with 100% compliance, I have become technically underweight (BMI of 17, the lowest of my adult life). I was shocked at how little I weigh (when I entered the hospital, 124 lbs at 6 ft; 121 lbs when I left.) now compared to the last time I was weighed (about 135 lbs, several years ago).
- Despite being technically underweight, I have been fully functional and the hospital staff found no evidence (from a "full array" of blood tests, as well as CAT scans, x-rays, interviews) of malnutrition or other problem.
- I will need to concentrate on boosting my weight by 10 lbs or so -- perhaps with increased sugar consumption and with avocados, olives, and so forth.

- Even from the beginning, during admittance, be very polite, clear, and assertive about dietary requirements: "Give me only fruit (any kind), vegetables (any kind), and potatoes." Simple and clear and easy for them to write down. Do not say "vegan" or "vegetarian" or similar terms, because they are too vague or confusing to most people.
- By explaining to the nurse on duty (12-hour shifts) what I wanted to eat, I received what I wanted. I tried to always make it easy for the people working in the kitchen (who are about three links removed from the patient). Keep it simple. Don't be picky. Always use the word "plain." Order whole foods, though I found I didn't need to use that word (which is confusing to most people).
- By keeping my requests simple and easy to fill, I got nutritious and delicious food at every meal; Two baked potatoes; two servings of green beans; a "fruit plate" (a mound of diced fresh fruit, such as apples, oranges, melons, grapes); half a cup of olives; and water. The amount of food was large. Even I --and I have a big appetite -- could barely eat it all.

All things considered, my brief hospital stay was positive -- as confirmation of my lifestyle.

Burgess Laughlin
Author of The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith,


manuel garcia said...

do you eat sugar?
what kind of sweetener do you use?

Burgess Laughlin said...

I consume about 1 tablespoon of white sugar per week. I use it as a spice only, never as a food. In the future, I will switch to dark brown cane sugar, simply because I like the taste. I use no other isolated sweeteners. Fruit tastes very sweet to me now that I have adjusted to plain food.

manuel garcia said...

thank you