Food Fights Aren’t Always Fun

Betcha I’m about the only person who can go to the emergency room for one thing and land in the hospital with something else entirely.


It started when I woke up a couple of Sundays ago and found that my PICC line had come out about 5 inches. “What do I do?” I asked the nurse on call at Visiting Nurses.

“Where did you have it placed? OK, go to their emergency room and they should be able to help you.”

And off we went. Where they discovered that, in addition to a problematic PICC line, my left leg was kind of red and swollen. At that point, they totally forgot about the PICC line (which kept sliding out until it was no longer in me). Next thing I knew, somebody was doing a Doppler on my leg to check for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). It was agony: I’m very ticklish — and the guy kept telling me to relax!

Leg was fine, but they wanted to check my lungs to see if there were any blood clots in there. Off I went for a CT scan. At which point the radiologist decided I had pneumonia. And the hospitalist decided I needed to be admitted.

And I said “no.”

I don’t like hospitals. I don’t like strange doctors. I don’t like it when people make a decision that affects me without talking to me and explaining why I need to do whatever it is they want me to do. And I had things I needed to do, like finish a blog entry that day (or what was left of the day after spending seven hours in the ER) and go to a doctor’s appointment in Indianapolis the next morning.

On Monday, I checked myself into the hospital. (See? I can be nice.) It didn’t take long for me to get into a “food fight” with the hospitalist.

As an aside, if I’d had my own doctor, there wouldn’t have been a problem because he knows me and we had discussed what to do about my food if I became hospitalized. Which is, I know what I’m doing and can make my own choices. However, he is part of the hospital family and must have his patients seen by a hospitalist, which is a doctor who coordinates your care while you are hospitalized.

Back to the food fight. I saw the “diabetic diet” notation and was not happy. When he came to visit, I asked how he could make a determination without having seen me or talked to me. “I know you better than you think,” he responded. “I was in the emergency room last night.”

So. He was the doc who wanted to admit me and I refused. I think he was a little angry with me.

And then there was another thing that ticked me off. In pleading my case, I told him that, with surgeries, infections, and relative nonactivity, my last HbA1c, which had been taken the week before, was 6.4%. Pretty good, huh? And I found out later that he had ordered an HbA1c! So now I’m a lying recalcitrant patient? He could have called my endocrinologist. Plus, I’m pretty careful with how I spend my insurance money and don’t like that they have to pay for an HbA1c taken just one week after the last one.

But, so far, no go. Which resulted in me trying to order dinner and being told I couldn’t have this or that or I would go over my carb allowance. Did I mention I hadn’t even been told what the allowance was?

Finally, he gave in. Kind of. I could order what I wanted, but couldn’t have any concentrated sugars. That resulted in being refused a spoonful of sugar for my oatmeal. But I could have raisins. Hmmmm…the sugar would have been 12 grams of carbohydrate and the raisins were 22 grams. I didn’t say anything, however, for fear that they wouldn’t let me have the raisins either!

I was glad to get back home.

I do have this “thing” about food, which likely stems from my frustration with that piece of paper containing the “diabetic diet” the doctor gave me when I was diagnosed. That was followed some time later by being constantly accused of not eating what I was “supposed” to — when what I needed was insulin. And there was the doctor (I saw once) who got angry with me because I had eaten some vanilla wafers — so I wouldn’t get hypoglycemic when my Regular insulin peaked.

Besides, I’m a grown-up and I can take care of myself.

Whew! End of rant.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to stay away from hospitals. Unless, of course, I’m visiting somebody.

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  • Ahhos

    Reading your post feels like a little glimpse into our future . And it’s both expensive and scary!

  • Judy Broussard

    I can fully understand your frustration. When I was in the hospital for a knee replacement, I asked if I could pick my own food and they said that I couldn’t. I had to follow their guidelines for a diabetic diet. So, I was eating too many carbs and not enough veggies.

    What frustration.

  • linda

    You would think medical professionals would know better. A diabetic diet is a balancing act. Not a ‘Can’ and ‘Cannot’ list. I have to go thru this with my friends when I eat out as well. Seems everyone has preconceived notions of what I should and should not eat.

    I am able to keep my A1C below 6.5 and my weight in check. So I figure I am doing OK. But I still have to defend my eating habits to everyone.

  • Liz Anderson

    I understand your frustration. My diabetic husband was recently hospitialize and diagnosed with Cancer. He’d lost over 100 pounds in a year and a half, 30 of whick blew away in the month preceeding his diagnosis. The Hospital places him on an 1800 calorie a day diet — so he lost even more weight. He left the Hospital, depressed, diagnosed and 148 pounds. Our children, healthy and happy, outweighted their father!

    Once away from the Hospital and with the guidance of his regular doctors my Husband has put on a safe amount of weight, imporroved his diet and diabetes care, and is kicking cancer’s butt. There is a reason to be in Hopsitals, but there is an even larger reason to listen to the Patient.

    I hope you are better.

  • Jackie K

    I am an RN CDE working in a large progressive hospital and I FEEL YOUR PAIN!
    I deal with this with patients EVERY DAY!
    I would love to hear ideas of how can we FIX this problem?

  • Fran

    I have a problem with the fact that they want to feed you breakfast at 9, lunch at 12 and dinner at5pm and each meal has too many carbs. But even so I have to fight for a snack b/c I take a large dose of Lantus at night. Or fight with them to give me inulin when premeal is below 150. They have some bizarre sliding scale and when I don’t get my pre meal insulin, my bg can go from 80 to 260.

  • Beth

    Just one small suggestion —

    Ask to talk to a dietitian about food, not the physician, who probably had about 1 hour total of nutrition education in his or her medical education. Most dietitians (sadly, not all) will recognize a well-educated person with diabetes in a biref conversation, and can help by standing up for you to the doctor.

    Another good choice would be a nurse CDE, or any other professional with the CDE certification (pharmacist, psychologist, exercise physiologist, social worker, etc.) You would do better with a professional who has demonstrated current knowledge of diabetes practice guidelines.

  • Kathy Mack

    I so feel your pain about the “Diabetic Diet”
    I think it would be easier to give patients a list of foods available with the serving sizes and the carb gram counts and let them pick the foods they can eat. Since we are the ones with diabetes we know best.
    Also list the ingredients in the foods as well. A lot of institutional food is loaded with man-made things, that I am allergic to intolerant of. When these ingredients are hidden under another name and I don’t find out till its too late it makes me upset.
    But most of all get rid to the stupid Diabetic Diet. Since when does a Diet have Diabetes?

  • Arlene

    I know what you are talking about. In January of 2008 my husband, a Type 2, was in the hospital to take care of a Hernia. The next morning they bring in his breakfast. It consisted of the following: orange juice, milk, coffee, oatmeal, 2 slices of toast, 2 eggs, 2 slices bacon, 2 sausage links and some kind of fruit that he didn’t recognize. This was a Diabetic Meal Breakfast. His lunch before he left was even worse. They gave him some kind of pasta loaded with pasta sauce, Chicken Parmagian loaded with sauce, garlic toast, a small salad with Bleu Cheese dressing (he hates Bleu Cheese dressing and they wouldn’t get him something else), Fiesta Corn, iced tea with lemon and way too much sugar and Key Lime Pie. He only ate about half to a third of each of these meals. And they had expected him to eat all of this. Suffice it to say he was glad to be home where he could have a normal meal with his coffee or iced tea with lemon, no sugar.

  • Gayle

    I found this blog interesting and quite understand everyone’s feelings concerning the DB diet while in a hospital. Last year I suffered a very small heart attack which required a 4 day hospital stay because of the weekend. I had carefully explained to the ER doctors, the nurses, and all who would listen….I must eat the diabetic diet that I have been using at home.

    All agreed with me or so I thought. Next morning I received a breakfast similar to the one Arlene described. I called the nurses….and told them I cannot eat this and am refusing the breakfast. The overloaded meal problems continued during my entire stay. I had discussions with the nurses and dieticians as well as the kitchen staff, to no avail.

    I never found an explanation from anyone. My savvy friends said possibly the heart doctors wanted me to have higher blood sugars than usual. The speculation was that my heart catherization might cause my sugars to drop too low. I plan to talk to my doc and get clarification and an understanding of what his recommendations are during an emergency and how I
    can be an informed and (hopefully) a cooperative patient.

  • Lavada Collins

    I to have had a stay in the hospital and it was a
    bad situation my blood sugars had gotten out of wack again. When i came to myself i was in the
    ICU with all sorts of things hooked up to me.
    My charge nurse told me well are you back among
    the living confused i said what do you mean then
    it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been out for two days and almost lost my life to this awful
    decease that pleags me. My sugars were so high that the hospital exspected to die that night but thanks to them i am still here fighting for a new way to beat this thing. i just wanted to say not all hospitals are that bad but like you guy’s i don’t like being in one either.

  • still too fat

    There are two very compelling reasons that meals served in nearly any institutional setting in the U.S. are so carb heavy.

    1. Carbs are cheap.

    2. Dietary recommendations are nearly always compiled with the assistance of the USDA, which has a vested interest in promoting the consumption of grain products.

  • Kathy McGlone

    My God, that could have been me writing about food wars!! When I have had to be hospitalized I was automatically assumed to be brain dead regarding food choices so it was taken out of my hands “for my own good”!! My Endocrinologist & I had come to terms about my food choices, so if he was ok with it who was the hospital to interfere? Since I was “held captive” in their establishment, I was at their mercy. Enter in a wonderful dietitian who saw & AGREED to my logic and choices. So, I was free to order at will, but the kitchen refused to cooperate. So, I turnedto take out! It’s surprising who will deliver to a hospital and as long as you have someone willing to go to the lobby to pick-up your food; the problem is solved!