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'Almost Universally Terrible' 

Editor:

I recently spent four days in the ICU at St. Joseph's Hospital, where the nursing staff were all wonderful, but the food was almost universally terrible ("A Week in the Hospital," Jan. 20). I can only think that those responsible for feeding ICU patients are not used to said patients being alert enough to comment on the food.

Several times during admission, I informed folks that I did not eat meat and was allergic to tomatoes and pomegranate, so I was surprised to find that my first meal after surgery was an omelet with sausage. My rejection of said sausage resulted a designation of vegan (where it stayed, despite visits from dieticians), so there was no egg, cheese, milk, yogurt or butter to be seen for the next four days). Pomegranate and tomato allergy somehow translated into an allergy to all fruit. My lunch that day consisted of a scoop of unseasoned mashed potato, accompanied by unseasoned steamed carrots and broccoli. And it was pretty much downhill from there. The lack of salt and other seasonings meant that most food was tasteless — but confusingly extra syrup and sugar were on offer, along with margarine, non-dairy creamer, and some strange chemical cocktail in a Nestle sachet, which I did not dare open. The nurses' generosity saved me — they slipped me a "snack pack" containing fresh blueberries, real yogurt, a muffin and a hard-boiled egg — the greatest feast of all time! 

Every meal was accompanied by a nutritional breakdown, but for food to be part of the healing process, it needs to be something patients want to eat. I leave the final word to a friend who was discharged shortly after I was: "My surgeon told me the final determining factor in letting me go was that she could no longer subject me to their food."

Pat Bitton, Eureka

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