Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Getting Glutened in the Hospital

True or False: You can trust a hospital to safely feed you a gluten free meal.

For me, TOTALLY FALSE! And honestly, completely unbelievable.

While staying at Duke Regional Hospital to deliver Mason Modesto…

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I was SHOCKED by the “gluten free” options that were brought to me.

I hadn’t eaten a meal since Thursday night. Friday morning I had one gluten free cracker and that was it. So by the time I was moved in to my post delivery room around 7am on Saturday, nearly 32 hours since my last meal, I was STARVING.

The first thing brought to me:


Chocolate Ice Cream and one egg scrambled. Yep. That’s the gluten free option.

Luckily Parrish asked the staff person if they had any fruit – she enthusiastically nodded Yes! (You could tell she wasn’t impressed with the plate she was offering me) She came back to my room with a giant take out container full of fruit.

After sleeping for a few hours and staring at our precious baby,

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Parrish ran out quickly to Whole Foods which was only 5 minutes away. Thank goodness! He bought yogurts and frozen meals: EVOL and Amy’s Gluten Free. In my hospital bag I had a few protein bars and granola, and there was a kitchen on our floor that was stocked with peanut butter.

I now felt confident that I could feed myself safely, which was good, because my next “gluten free” meal was one bowl of green beans and one bowl of mashed potatoes.

That’s it.

Good thing I hadn’t been in labor for 50 HOURS and needed nourishment….Oh wait, I had.

I couldn’t believe the lack of protein.

The next morning for breakfast I was brought an identical tray as the day before. Chocolate ice cream, one scrambled egg, two bowls of fruit, and a banana. However, tucked underneath the plate was a “Gluten Free” menu.


I was going to be able to select my food! I was flabbergasted when I saw Gluten Free Toast and Gluten Free Cereal as an offering for breakfast on Monday. What the heck?!

I circled items for each meal. My lunch that Sunday and my supper, and finally my breakfast for Monday morning. For lunch I chose a soup with salad – for supper I chose grilled chicken with roasted vegetables. I couldn’t believe my selection.

Literally. I could NOT believe it.

I wish I had had more faith in Duke Regional….then again, it’s lucky I didn’t.

When my lunch arrived, I raised the lid on my tray to find a bowl of iceberg lettuce, a bowl of green beans, and a pudding cup.

No soup – and I guess I could call the bowl of iceberg a “salad” but there was no dressing and no other vegetable in sight. Not even a sad piece of cabbage or strings of carrots. Nada.

By the time supper rolled in, I readied my camera. My blog friends would not believe it!


Not only was it not what I ordered, it certainly was NOT gluten free! But you want to know the saddest thing:

When I shared this on social media I learned that I was not alone. In fact, this picture and others I shared of the food were flocked with comments by dear readers sharing their similar tales of woe.

One sweet reader had had abdominal surgery and then was given beef broth with barley in it. Another had to call a friend to bring her food while she was recovering. Message after message, it started to hit home for me. Nearly eight years of being gluten free, and I’m still learning the same lesson: be wary of those trying to feed you. Even a hospital!

Ask questions.

Be an advocate for yourself and have a support system ready to advocate for you! I was so out of it that first morning, thank goodness Parrish asked for fruit!

Be prepared. Make plans to bring your own food or have safe food brought to you.

Trust no one. Sad? Yes. Dramatic? Maybe. But oh so true. Only you can ensure that what you’re eating is gluten free. Be sure you really trust anyone whose food you accept.

And my breakfast that last morning?

I enjoyed a banana with peanut butter and a protein bar – provided by Parrish.


What did the hospital provide me with?

Take a guess.

One guess.

You know what it was. 

Yep. Chocolate Ice Cream, one Scrambled Egg, and a bowl of fruit.



Dana said...

Omg that's horrific! I'm so sorry :( yet also sadly unsurprised.

However, your baby is gorgeous! A belated but whole hearted Congrats!

Anna said...

After coming out of anesthesia people are supposed to be given clear liquids only for the first 12 hours or so bc it will upset their stomachs. I got that at my surgery last year. When I went in for my surgery this year the order was written for me to have clears but my nurse decided to change it and give me anything. Only she couldn't find any menus so I was just guessing at what they had. It was kind of confusing.

collegeceliackc said...

I know the feeling! When I was in the hospital last year because of celiac complications, they sent me a chicken sandwich on a BREAD ROLL for lunch! I almost ate it - they had "gluten free" marked off on the meal card taped on the box - but it looked too good to be true. And it was - gluten all the way. So glad I didn't eat it! Amaizing how far hospitals still have to go in some respects.

Julieslymediseasefight said...

When I had my daughter (now 12 months old), I had a couple bags packed with safe food. I knew the hospital would not have any safe food for me. I can't imagine what people do when they can't plan ahead for hospital stays!!!

Susan W. said...

I had abdominal surgery last August and called the hospital before hand and was told they don't have a specific gluten free menu but when I was able to eat all I needed to do was call the kitchen and talk to them. The nursing staff was great at finding me gluten free broth until I could eat. The "call the kitchen" issue was different. They have a menu like what you find in a restaurant and when you are ready to eat all you do is call the kitchen and order your meal and they will have it to you in about an hour. I was able to discuss with them my dietary needs and figure out what I could eat. The staff was very helpful and I was pleasantly surprised.

I'm so sorry your experience was not so great. I guess they figure not enough gluten free people stay in the hospital to warrant a special menu and safe area in the kitchen for them.

Unknown said...

For rather the opposite event, I was in the hospital after my hysterectomy, and it was a similar nightmare. We were abundantly clear repeatedly about allergies. I cannot have gluten, artificial sweeteners, imitrex, or benadryl. Artificial sweeteners - particularly DIET SODA - trigger horrible migraines.

During my surgery, my bowel got nicked, so I am on clear liquids only for several days. Which means broth (with barley!) and ginger ale (diet!). I was in more pain from the recovery than from the surgery on that second day, frankly. Fortunately, my family was able to get me good safe cans of broth and ginger ale, but the stupid hospital pharmacy never DID clear my migraine medication. They kept offering me imitrex and benadryl. :(