My friends and family followed through splendidly, even organizing a dinner tree for people to choose dates on which to bring food, usually enough for an entire day’s worth of meals. Now that I’m nearing the end of my first two months of recovery, I realize the significant role that food played in those first few weeks. Mealtimes in the hospital were bright spots in otherwise dreary and painful days, and therefore palliative.
Once I was home, the need for others to bring food was even greater. In the initial days, my fiance, Michael, had his hands full helping me get around our multi-level house.
When he went back to work and I had to fend for myself, I couldn’t stand for very long and wasn’t allowed to bend over, twist or lift anything. Steps were out, so vessels and foods stored in the basement pantry were off-limits. Driving was forbidden for at least six weeks, so no grocery shopping. The goodies that friends delivered were lifesavers.
The moral of the story: Don’t be shy. Tell your loved ones what you need.
A couple of weeks before surgery, I attended a joint-replacement class at Sibley Hospital in Northwest Washington. After the session, my fellow patients-to-be asked all kinds of earnest questions about anesthesia, physical therapy and their impending hospital stay. I had only one concern.
“Can we bring in outside food?” I asked.
“Really,” said Michael. “That’s your question?”
What did he expect from a former chef turned food writer? I explained to him that I had full faith in my doctors’ abilities but not in those of a hospital kitchen. My surgery required a three-night stay, promptly followed by five nights in Sibley’s rehabilitative wing; I wasn’t planning on being deprived for that long.
My sister got things off to sweet start: A giant basket filled with Pirouette cookies, caramel-filled Werther’s candies, chocolate-covered Ecolier cookies, Ghirardelli squares, trail mix and loads of trashy periodicals awaited me in my room after the surgery.
“The nurses said I was delirious last night,” I texted her the next morning. “I kept mumbling something about party mix.”
That’s the family drug.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m bringing a big batch tomorrow.”
When I tried to order bacon with breakfast that day, I discovered I had been put on a restricted (that’s hospital-speak for completely dreadful) diet. My lunch was a shriveled shoe sole of turkey. Untouched. So when a friend texted me to ask if I needed anything, I didn’t miss a beat.
“Chicken wings,” I answered immediately.
Her officemates reported that Clyde’s had the best ones. Hours later I attested to their deliciousness, devouring them and no doubt alarming my hospital roommate. (He eventually got used to the parade of food.)