Today for breakfast I had one fried egg, over. Served it salted, peppered, flat, and halved on a halved toasted bagel.
Whatever it is about eggs that makes their taste so "complete" for me, so satisfying, I haven't figured it out yet. I suspect it nutritionally has to do with the protein in the yolk, and something about the interaction of salt, butter, and egg-white that just sends me over the top taste-wise.
I marvel at the perfectness of the egg. It's a spiritual experience for me, really humbling me as a cook, because for all my learnedness in the culinary arts, there is nothing I can do to rival (though I can sort of imitate) the flawless dovetailing of nutritive need and gustatory delight so elegantly stated by The Egg.
Food for Thought, indeed.
Last night I was supine on a table, undergoing a medical procedure. Happy Thanksgiving? The light fixture above my head was interesting: A giant photo transparency of a view of the heavens "actually taken from the Hubbel telescope", overlying a large light square that was divided into quarters. Supposed to relax the patient. As I am in the midst of serious personal medical challenges, I'm used to viewing thousands of images of my own and reference innards and organs, and I was struck by the similarity of this slide's appearance to those bio-forms.
"You know," I said to the technologist, "The picture on the ceiling looks like pulmonary parenchyma, dense with miliary nodules, and there's some patchy infiltrate in the left lower quadrant." Needless to say, he was stunned.
As I lay on that table, throughout the next hour or so, I pondered the analogue, remembering some beautiful Nature photographs I've seen that really play up the theme -- flowers and foliage, meteorological patterns, rock formations, speaking a language strangely similar to that spoken by our own histology and gross anatomy.
On my way out of the hospital, I noticed the artwork in the halls and found it very aptly chosen. The themes were similar: Leaves floating on a rippling pond, or swirling in a whirlpool or windstorm; a single flower, a tendril dangling, encircling...
One can "be sick" and see that, exclusively.
Or one can thus gain entrée into yet another wondrous sphere, where even diseased cells can claim their share of beauty.
Until I fell ill in February, it had been decades since I'd been in "patient" mode. Now, I have something of a complicated health picture and am dealing with the medical profession on my own behalf constantly.
What's changed over the years? Why do I, who used to work in Medicine in New York, find it such alien(ating) terrain?
There are those who say my native New York doctors and facilities are notoriously more professional and proficient than those here in California. Others say the whole profession has morphed into one in which patients must, much more than ever, concertedly advocate on their own behalves, doctors being less likely to automatically consider themselves accountable to actual patients, due to all the billing/regulatory intermediaries. Radiologists are more likely to rush-read images, and doctors to settle for mere reports without viewing actual films, etc.
I have been struggling with this, having lost the more aggressive insistence that came with the New York territory. I have always counseled the ill, including friends, to clearly assert themselves with medical professionals, and now I find myself in the position to discover how difficult that is to do when ailing. It is far easier said than done, so I'm humbled about it and smell a wildly fertile field in Patient Advocacy/Relations, for those of you seeking new careers.
I spent almost thirty adult years outside Medicine's crosshairs. Needing to avail myself of its services these days, I must mobilize great stores of energy, relearn old skills, learn new systems, and engage new techniques for navigating this terrain, said not-quite-Pollyanna.
Thanking God for the ol' B spirit, plasticity, resilience, equanimity, and cheer.
Yesterday I visited the hospital where I had undergone my ordeal last winter. The following is the text of an email I just sent someone who'd flown 3000 miles to my bedside, telling him about my reunion with the angels who rescued me.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Don't know if this would interest you at all, but:
Yesterday, I was at [name of hospital]. And I decided to do something while there that I'd thought many times of doing: I went back to all the wards/units where I had been a patient last winter, to see them from the eyes of health, the rooms I'd lain in, and to perhaps thank some of the really outstanding people who had taken care of me. I had the distinct sense that they very, very rarely see the positive results of their dedication - their former patients IRL, walking around in street clothes, with wind in their sails.
First stop: The ICU. I thought of you as I entered its door, imagined you coming in and passing these places, as I had never seen the door myself; I had never seen that front desk. And there was my little alcove/room, just to the left. The whole ICU looked much, much smaller and more crowded than it had felt/appeared to me from my horizontal position on that bed. I instantly remembered nurses I saw there yesterday ---- remembered their names, which blew their minds. There were even hugs and tears - they couldn't believe I looked so good, and they were genuinely grateful I'd come back: It did a LOT for their morale. I specifically asked for Katy, who had been in touch with you by phone. I wanted to thank her for her hand-holding care of me when I was first admitted there, put on the oscillating ventilation. (I don't think you saw that set-up; for hours I was strapped into a jerking/bouncing/vibrating chest-wrapped thing to jostle my ribcage while the oxygen was blasting in through the mask - Katy explained it was to loosen the "cement"-like "fluid" that had filled my lungs.) It was really hellish, but Katy sat there with me, while I begged her to stop it, and she'd say, "Okay, fine. You want us to intubate you? Because if I turn this off, we have no choice."
You know what came back to me?
And this is really why I'm writing this to you.
She was the one who came in and said, "______ is coming from New York. I've spoken to him. His plane arrives at 2 in the afternoon."
So help me, I looked at that clock every several minutes and calculated where in the American skies you were. It was critical to me, somehow, to hang on to that while the waves of wind smacked me in the throat and the vest jostled me hard. I remembered that yesterday. I remembered a lot of things, and, you know? It was psychologically a very healthy thing to have gone back there. I had read on the Internet that that's the case for many, many who spend extended time in Intensive Care through an Emergency admission.
Anyway, I left a note for Katy yesterday (because she's a Night Nurse and wasn't there), on a special "Recognition" card, which they post in their little staff rest area, and everybody looks. Apparently this is a Major Highlight of their work. These ICU angels of mercy are in the business of saving lives, and while they get monetary rewards, their souls really do crave just this sort of recognition. Many of their patients don't recover. The few who come back and show their/our faces, healthy, REALLY encourage them.
After I left there, I did the same at the TICU and the regular ward. I was remembered, and I remembered the names, too! I recognized-in-writing two more absent nurses in the TICU, and followed up with a couple of nurses on the regular ward. One was a male French nurse with whom I had communicated in French when I was first admitted to the regular Medical ward for observation. "You were just coughing and coughing and coughing," he said yesterday. He didn't know - so I told him - that I later went Critical and was transferred to the ICU and was in the hospital another 12 days after he last saw me.
It was a very rich experience for me and gave me a certain amount of closure. I have very, very warm feelings for those people and was told that the nurses I recognized in writing would be thereby recognized by their departments and supervisors. The least I could do.
And, of course, I have warm feelings and deep gratitude for you. You really gave me something priceless by flying out here when you did. The plane was cramped, the ICU was cramped, it wasn't fun, and you must have been scared until I stabilized.
What more can I say?
Love and hugs.
The recent hospitalization has definitely affected my overall outlook profoundly, even with respect to diet / lifestyle. I've faced a "worst case scenario" head-on, and it only confirms me in an easygoing approach.
No sooner did I recover from February's life-threatening ARDS than I found myself being recalled a couple of weeks ago about a suspicious radiologic finding. Then I was quickly worked up via diagnostic radiology and ultrasound, whose results compounded clinician suspicion. The lesion in question had four classic features of malignancy.
Yesterday's biopsy was under ideal conditions, including its being performed at a top-rated US hospital. Slides were prepared a few feet from my head, where the pathologist sat at her microscope and read them. She then delivered the good news.
Throughout the biopsy and the preceding two weeks' workup, I was serene.
1. I have enough of a medical background to know how advanced the technology is and how much of its use is justified by the need to train the personnel who use it! On the less cynical side, there's a necessarily high ratio of healthy patients who must be rendered anxious or apprehensive to those the technology really saves by finding their cancers early. So: Intellectually, I'm hip.
2. February's acute brush with death and day-to-day personal submission to Emergency and Critical medical care accustomed me to being pricked, probed, medicated, turned, transported, ventilated, and discussed by roving schools of clinicians and their acolytes, as well as nurses, aides, therapists and techs. My attitude is a paradoxic combination of exhausted "Yeah, yeah: Do what you have to do," and firm "Give it to me in straight clinical jargon; no 'lay language' for me, thanks," not to mention a very strong faith in God.
One thing I've always appreciated about Peter D'Adamo is his respect for holistic, as opposed to merely biochemical, individuality. He understands that not only diet but one's attitude toward health is unique to one's personhood. Some of us can tolerate more uncertainty, more sickness, more ignorance, than others. Some are more frightened by or intolerant of dysfunction or disability. Some are more scared of death than others are. And all of these factors must be considered when choosing a "compliance-level", because: Compliance with What? is the operative question.
Compliance with the D'Adamo books' recommendations?
Compliance with one's social situation? With one's workstyle or schedule?
Compliance with one's personal distribution of comfort zones?
I daresay the dadamo web forum community is far more concerned with dietary than these other sorts of compliance, necessarily to promulgate that aspect of the teaching. But dietary compliance as a major life preoccupation isn't for everyone or even for most, even in the wake of catastrophic illness – maybe especially under those circumstances! It's the old story of regretting not having told someone you loved him, say, as opposed to having used too much cinnamon. "Living Right" 4 one's bloodtype is not identical to living right for one's soul or spirit.
Emergency and intensive patient-hood often elicits a clearer expression of essence. There's a distillation, a purification, a consequent clarity. Nothing wrong with that. Having emerged from that crucible, the more recent "cancer scare" tested the substrate, and I'm pleased with the result.