Prescription for Disaster

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Wait, who says NO to something like that?!

Wait, who says No to something like that?!

Alright, I think we can all agree that hospital food is ranked right up there with airline food and the last half-hour of a decent restaurant’s salad bar. I have found, however, that there is indeed an exception to prove the rule.

The Royal Free Hospital in London has, in its basement cafeteria, an Asian stir fry bar. Oh yes, an actual stir fry bar within a hospital cafeteria that is cheap AND delicious. And fresh. And all kinds of wonderful. You fill a bowl with vegetables of your choosing, select a ‘meat’ (they have tofu!) and it is stir fried in front of you in a warm, nutty satay with chilies and garlic. It is so heavenly that it seems as though people not even associated with the hospital flock there for lunch, making the cafeteria a busy, busy place.

Now, as a day-patient on the chemo ward you get perks like a comfy chair and a free lunch, the vegetarian option being some sort of mushy mushroom and onion pie with mushy peas (we have teeth you know!!) and something equally vile intended for dessert.

So can you blame me for sneaking off to the cafeteria?

Under the guise of going out to find phone reception so I could make a quick call I maneuvered my spindly IV pole out of the door, down the hall, past security (if I don’t make a big deal they don’t make a big deal), into the elevator and on my way to the cafeteria, salivating with anticipation. I was in a hurry, they don’t like it when patients disappear with their IV’s.

I made it to the cafeteria and got in line, my IV pole being guided with one hand and my other loading up a bowl with green beans and julienned carrots – clearly the only IV connected idiot within the entire cafeteria. I was getting some strange looks, sure… but the stir fried noodle bar was so worth it.

“Eating in or out?”

Oh, in please. I couldn’t very well take this back to the ward – they’d surely never let me out again. I’d have to sit down here, wolf it down and then head back up before either someone started to miss me or the stupid IV pole thing started beeping that Jermaine Steward tune again.

So there I was, having paid for my beautiful lunch and ready to eat – I just had to find somewhere to sit.

I couldn’t see a single empty table.

Alright, find. This is a huge place, there is probably an area around the corner that is empty. I balanced my tray in both hands as I nudged my IV pole forward with a combination of my elbow, hip and foot. It was slow going but totally manageable. I made it around the corner – all tables were full. Not a free table in sight.

Okay, I needed to sort something out. I was drawing much attention with my IV pole and tray shuffling around the main corridor of the cafeteria like a confused mental patient. I looked to the outside terrace and to my relief saw a group of empty tables – it was only drizzling outside, not actual rain, so I went for it – only to find that I couldn’t get my IV pole over the lip of the doorway to actually get out there.

I turned around, at that point quite desperate to sit down. This was like high school all over again – looking for a place to sit in the lunch room and every person with a spare seat keenly avoiding eye contact. I’d have to just go for it, we’re all adults now, this isn’t like high school and people are mature and understanding. Especially to someone connected to an IV pole.

I took a deep breath and shuffled my way over to a table with a friendly looking woman sat at a table with three empty seats.

“Sorry, do you mind if I sit here?”

“Oh, I’m saving these seats. Sorry.”

Wait, what? She said no. No! What kind of person says no to that!? 

Horrifically embarrassed at the exchange I shuffled away as quickly as I could, my IV pole nearly getting away from me in the process. I really needed a place to sit down. I approached a second table with a lone diner – an even friendlier looking woman who snapped at me in Bulgarian. This was not going well.

I was getting desperate. I was so hungry, I was in a rush and I was already so embarrassed. I made a third approach – a man this time. He didn’t look all that friendly but hey – that hadn’t worked out too well for me the last two times.

“I’m sorry, do you mind if I sit here? The cafeteria is full and I can’t seem to find a place to sit.”


Oh. My. God.

I just wanted to shrivel up into the floor and die. I gave him a dirty look, repositioned my tray onto one hand like a skilled waitress, took hold of my IV pole and aimed for the back of the room close to the kitchen. I didn’t even take my chances this time, I just saw a friendly looking nurse (nurses have sympathy, surely!) sitting at a table by herself and went for it, sitting down in the chair across from her, apologizing with a ‘sorry, all of the other tables were full’ and then started eating as quickly as I could. She looked uncomfortable, until her two friends then also joined her at the table and a fourth (who’s seat I was now in) did an abrupt U-turn and went to find another spot.

This was made so much worse by my inability to eat with any grace since having had a stroke (a good quarter of every meal ends up on myself or on the floor), slurping up noodles with chopsticks and my IV pole starting to beep. I looked like I was in their care.


One of the nurses at the table reached over, pressed a button on the pole to stop the beeping and they then continued their conversation in Tagalog – hopefully not (but probably) about me.
It was the most uncomfortable lunch ever and I ate with record speed – only to see as I scurried out of there that the first lady was still sitting alone.


No comments:

Post a Comment