Food in the hospital, and care from an unexpected source :)

The last time I stayed at a hospital was the last time I gave birth, 2.5 years ago.  The nutrition staff accommodated my gluten-free diet, but it was somewhat difficult getting it communicated to them (even when they visited my room) about what was safe, and what wasn’t.  We pretty much had to go by trial-and-error — like, they’d send something up, or bring it themselves, and I would say, “Um, no, an open-faced sandwich with gravy is not OK.”  Or, “Plain lunch meat and fruit is OK.”  (And, by the way, what is up with trying to feed celiacs open-faced sandwiches???  A woman on the Phoenix Celiacs Yahoo Group to which I belong had the same experience.  Taking away one of the slices doesn’t make the sandwich gluten-free.)

This time, before the birth of sweet baby #5, I decided to be a little more proactive, so I contacted the hospital in order to talk with the nutritionist in advance, to find out what their protocol is for feeding gluten-free patients.  I must admit, I get shocked at very little.  Perhaps I’m jaded.  I dunno.  But, I was totally shocked when she told me that she only gets one request every six MONTHS to accommodate a gluten-free diet!!

Thankfully, though, she seemed to be very aware of g.f. issues, partly from her own studies, and partly because she semi-recently had a g.f. patient who was extremely picky and demanding, who apparently gave her an “education” on gluten issues.  From the sounds of it, that other patient was rather rude about the whole thing, but apparently, the nutritionist benefited from it, because she was so well-informed, which makes it safer for me, and all celiacs!  She planned to do a special grocery-shop just for me.  I gave her tips on some products that would be worthwhile to buy, as well as where to find them, since the grocery store with which the hospital has an account has virtually NO g.f. items.  We had a good conversation, and I’m pleased with the outcome.  The plan seems to be that she’ll buy g.f. cereals, plus fruit, eggs & yogurt for breakfast… Lunch with sandwiches on g.f. bread with g.f.-labeled lunch meat (I suggested Hormel Natural Choice), and dinner of plain meat, plain veggies, and some sort of g.f. bread, probably by Kinnikinnick.  That sounds good to me!!  She was even aware of cross-contamination issues — so, her plan was to stick with prepackaged food that was labeled g.f., or foods that she knows are already g.f., with little-to-no risk of cross-contamination…   PLUS, I’m bringing my own food, just in case.

It made me wonder what all the other celiacs were doing during their hospital stays.

So, I sent an e-mail out to the Yahoo group, and got a wide variety of responses, all of them encouraging and helpful.  One response made tears spring to my eyes!!  It was from a woman who is a professional gluten-free chef, and who lives close to the hospital where I’ll be staying.  She offered to bring to me a free dinner!!  I couldn’t believe it.  It’s always a blessing to have others cook for me, on the rare occasions when that happens.  But, I always eat others’ offerings with some trepidation, because as loving and concerned and accommodating as they may be, they really aren’t used to cooking gluten-free, and anything could go wrong, from hidden ingredients to residue on a baking sheet.  So, to have an actual chef who has celiac disease prepare a meal…  for me??  Wow.

I don’t know what will become of it;  I wrote back to her to say that, while her offer would be a treat, it wasn’t necessary.  I just feel like to say, outright, “Yes!  Please do!!  I’m desperate!!” would be a lie, because I have over a week’s worth of food prepared here at home, in the freezer and fridge, with which to feed my own family when I’m gone or too tired to cook, or whatever…  Normally, my church’s kinship/Bible Study group’s members pitch in to provide meals for the family of a newborn, but our family is SO difficult to cook for, being both gluten- and dairy-free (well, only two of us are dairy-free, but that means that the whole meal has to be dairy-free).  I simply don’t expect anyone to bend over that far backwards to cook for our family.  So any of what I already prepared could be easily brought to me in the hospital, if it turns out that what they offer me is just not working, for one reason or another.


It made me feel very taken-care-of to have someone even offer to bring me dinner.  Warm and fuzzy…  🙂

Many thanks to Chef Elizabeth Edwards — may you be blessed with the same servanthood and thoughtfulness you’ve shown to me!!


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on October 16, 2008, in Arizona, Birth, Celiac Disease, Cooking/Baking/Food/Recipes, Dairy-free, Digestive Woes, Encouragement, Gluten-Free and Food Allergy Resources, God/Christianity/Church, Vineyard Phoenix. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. When I saw hospital food I was so excited and jumped right over here to read your post. I just knew it was about the baby. Well maybe it is soon!

    It didn’t even occur to me how difficult that must be. I have a IRL friend that has celiac’s and so does her 4 yo. She still cooks regular food for the rest of her family. I have hard time figuring out what to bring when I know they are going to be there. I am going to do some more research and learn more about it so I can help her out more. Thanks for the tip.

  2. We’re dairy-free, because of my son’s allergy; I can’t imagine dealing with the gluten issue too!

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