PICU Pressure is a month-long occasional series to help raise awareness for The Walk by telling my family’s story of our 109 day stay in the ICU at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Previous entries include I. How’d we get here?, II. The Summary, III. Med School, and IV. The Routine. If you can spare a few bucks please consider clicking the link above and donating to help the kids of Rhode Island.
In the last entry I wrote about the comfort we found in the routine. Nearly every day being the same as the last is what helped us to string together so many days in the hospital. The routine was based around Liam’s needs, the shift change of nurses and somehow squeezing in a couple of hours sleep where we could. Unfortunately the left little room for the other necessity, food.
The only mention of food in my last post is breakfast for a reason. It was the only meal we ate consistently and together. The cafe that we walked by every morning on our way into the unit was simply too convenient to ignore. Grabbing our cup of Joe there at the Au Bon Pain afforded us a few more minutes of sleep at home; not having our morning coffee at home before we left for the hospital afforded us a few more minutes at Liam’s bedside. It was a win-win. If we passed on the Au Bon Pain we always had the option of the breakfast cart. Ah, the breakfast cart. A rolling food cart featuring coffee and pastries for free to all parents of patients. It was awesome, and I’m not afraid to admit that sometimes I would double dip. Coffee cake from the cafe and cinnamon roll from the breakfast cart. Don’t judge me. The breakfast cart became even more important toward the end of our stay when Karin and I would spend more of our nights alternating who would spend the night. “Dad Olson, the breakfast cart is here.” was a great way to wake up.
Lunch was hit or miss. If we had anything at all for lunch it was usually only on days when I was working when I would bring a sandwich or something from my cafeteria over to Karin while she hung out in Liam’s room. Sadly, there was no lunch or dinner cart. Most days though we would just skip lunch. Candy bars from the vending machines or chips from the gift shop, eating during the day was usually just a snack. Tests, consultations, or meetings in a hospital never happen on time and they usually occur at exactly the moment you decide to do something else, like a visit from a friend or the start of a nice hot meal. Instead we would wander both extremes, either snacking constantly or starving until piecing together some kind of dinner when we were sure there’d be no more activity for the day.
When Karin and I arrived in Las Vegas Nevada for our honeymoon 8 wonderful years ago I had a bit of a meltdown. Our plan was to get there without a plan. We wanted an adventure and to do that we figured we would make a hotel reservation for only the first three nights of our two-week trip and see where adventure would take us. Sounded like a good idea at the time, until we got there and I lost my cool thinking that without a well planned itinerary we would spend too much time figuring out what to do and not spend any time doing anything. I was freaking out. “We should have got a rental car! Where are we going to stay next week?” I was really freaking out.
Already knowing how to take care of me, Karin knew just what to do.
“Let’s get you something to eat.” She said assessing the situation and realizing that a hungry Eric is more jittery and stressed out than a full one. She also knew just what medicine I needed. “Let’s get you to a McDonald’s”
It worked. We sat and I stuffed my stressed out face with fries and burgers while she calmly flipped through a stack of brochures that she had picked up in the hotel lobby. By the end of our meal I was excited by the possibilities in front of us and we ended up having a fantastic time. Long story short — I eat when I’m stressed. More specifically, I eat fast food when I’m stressed. No matter how depressed/angry/frustrated I am give me a couple of burgers and fries and I’ll be happy as a clam. So it was no different for the summer in the PICU where most days dinner consisted of either Burger King or Wendy’s at 11:30pm because those were the two fast food joints between the hospital and home.
I’m happy to say that Karin and I have both sworn off the large fast food chains and haven’t indulged at all during the year 2010 but for all of that time in the hospital it was all that we wanted. It was fast and easy which again afforded us more time with Liam and less time in a kitchen or at home preparing meals. More than convenient though, it was comfortable. It was, for our time at Hasbro, comfort food, just as it has always been for me. Comfort can be hard to find in a hospital so you make sure you get some wherever you can.