Hello! I am alive, not in too much pain and if this anaesthetic hangover would push off the world would be a better place, but you can’t have everything.
As this was started as a gluten free blog, I’ll post first about being coeliac in hospital. I have to admit that I had visions of living on fruit and jacket potatoes but this was not how it turned out to be. There was a wide choice of meals on offer for lunch and evening meals. I was brought a special menu without any prompting and my order was rung through to the catering dept and arrived hot and on time. At one point I was given a red ID wrist band (and ankle band, just in case I lost a limb?) which possibly meant beware, oddball. The anaesthetist picked up on the note and misread the nurse’s writing and asked me whether I was allergic to codeine…
On Tuesday I was still recovering from the anaesthetic (I’ll leave out details in case you are of a sensitive nature, but food and I were not friends, in fact water and I didn’t even want to shake hands…) so, despite having a chicken casserole in front of me with ratatouille veg and boiled potatoes, I didn’t manage to eat any of it. I did poke the potatoes with a fork and them seemed sort of sticky.
The meals were made by Wiltshire Farm Foods. I have seen these advertised on the TV, with a warm smiling Ronnie Corbett encouraging middle-aged ladies to order them for their infirm incapable parents – another boost for my ego! They are presented with their lids still sealed on the black plastic trays, which I guess makes cross-contamination impossible but the presentation loses a certain something along the way.
Wednesday morning brought breakfast. A big trolley with various cereals, bread (which was not allowed to be toasted as someone kept setting the smoke alarms off and the fire service had decided to start charging for their wasted time, apparently!), coffee and juice. I was told that I was ‘lucky’ as they had had another coeliac patient recently so I was able to have Sainsbury’s FreeFrom Cornflakes. I had to persuade the housekeeping lady that I did not need soya milk, no, not in my coffee either.
Then came The Toast Conversation… She said they didn’t have GF bread so that wasn’t an option, but as she’d heard it was all pretty disgusting then I probably wasn’t missing much. She mentioned that she’d heard it was better toasted – I agreed, but said that that would just make life even more difficult for them:
HK: ‘It wouldn’t be a problem, we have adjustable slots in our toasters’
I explained about the need to avoid cross-contamination and mentioned having to have separate toasters/toaster bags at home.
HK: ‘We’ve never been told to do that, we put the GF bread in the same toaster as all the other bread.’
Fair play to this lady, she was following instructions and she went off and queried it with her manager and reported back at mid-morning coffee time. The manager had never heard of avoiding cross-contamination in this way, but queried it with the dietitians who confirmed that they should indeed be doing this! I wonder how many coeliacs that has affected in the past? I was armed with toaster bags and many coeliacs would be wary of toast that they didn’t see prepared but…
Lunch on Wednesday was Shepherd’s Pie and veg and I was on the ball enough by then to take a photo:
It doesn’t look quite as appetising as it does when you see it on the website, does it!
This was the packaging and you can reassuringly see that it is labelled Gluten Free, which is the most important part:
Which bring us to pudding. I had ordered Rice Pudding but that was not available, so they brought me a replacement – chocolate and vanilla sponge. Alarm bells rang – sponge? flour? gluten free? In between shovelling the shepherd’s pie into my mouth I asked ‘Are you sure that’s gluten free?’ and was assured that they had checked with the kitchen and it was fine.
I stared at the packaging:
The ingredient list was too smudged to read, but it was the same style as the shepherd’s pie and did not say Gluten Free amongst the list on the coloured bars. I asked another member of staff if they could confirm that it was gluten free, she checked with someone else who offered to ring the kitchen and check. I didn’t want to cause a fuss, they had enough to do juggling meals and patients already and said it was fine, as there was a doubt I wouldn’t eat it, really it’s not a problem – they insisted on ringing and guess what? It was not gluten free…
Here’s the list of ingredients from the Wiltshire Farm Foods website:
water, sugar, chocolate chips (5%) [sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, vegetable fat (palm, shea, sal, illpe, kokum, mango kernel in varying proportions), emulsifier (E322 (contains SOYA))], WHEAT flour (with calcium, iron, niacin, thiamin), modified potato starch, MILK proteins, dried whole MILK, vegetable oil (rapeseed, palm), maltodextrin, cocoa powder, dried EGG powder, natural vanilla flavouring substances, raising agents (E450i, E500ii), salt, Allergy Advice: For allergens see ingredients in CAPITALS
I didn’t order an evening meal as I took a turn for the worse and ended up having to stay an extra night in hospital. Breakfast the next morning was uneventful (and I might have squeezed another day’s serving out of the cornflakes if I had had to!). I was sent to the discharge lounge mid-morning on Thursday and collected early in the afternoon. I had coffee and had my emergency supply of fruit and crisps so didn’t starve to death, but there didn’t seem to be any alternative to the sandwiches that were on offer.
Overall – nice try, but could do a lot better. When I have a bit more energy I will be contacting the hospital to see what they can do to prevent future coeliac patients going through the same palaver!