“Hi, Wendell.” I turned my head, tracking the voice past the light blue wall with a seascape print on to the doorway. It was Jared, my dietician. “How are we doing today?”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a jerk, but I’d been cooped up in the hospital living on their boring food for eleven days and I was sick of it. I guess I took my pissed-off vibe out on the poor guy when I said, very pointedly, “We are doing just fine, thank you very much.”
There, take that, I thought to myself. But, in replaying my reply in my mind I guess it didn’t sound quite as confidently assertive as I thought it would.
Oh, well, I’ve never been one for conflict. I’ll accept that, but let’s change the subject and talk about food. Now there’s something I can really sink my teeth into. (Ha-ha!) In fact, that’s why Jared was here. I guess it’s my love of food, especially processed food loaded with lots of salt or as Jared calls it, sodium, that was responsible for my hospital stay, my second heart attack in five years.
“Third one’s the charm, Wendell,” Jared told me yesterday, trying to strike fear into my cholesterol laden heart. Easier said than done.
I’ll be frank, I love to eat, it’s just that I don’t like to cook. I live by myself and have no close friends. I sit at my computer processing data all day long in the business office of a manufacturing company that makes electronic components for things like thermostats and automobiles. To some, my job may seem boring, but I like the routine and repetition. I guess I must because I’ve worked for them for twenty-three years.
Boring or not, I’ll tell you this, I work hard and when the day is done, I like to come home and relax with the television, usually cooking shows, of course, and a nice meal. Make that a nice meal that’s easy to prepare.
A few days ago, Jared gave me a list of foods high in sodium. I scanned it and would you believe that I loved every single one of them? The list included: pizza (my absolute favorite; any kind), chips (second favorite; again, any kind), sliced meats, cheese, more chips, shrimp (my nod to something exotic), even tv dinners (my nod to the occasional complete meal.)
It’s not fair.
“It’s the processed stuff that’s killing you, Wendell,” Jared told me yesterday. “You’ve got to change your ways. Start eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Nuts and grains, too. Here.”
He gave me another pamphlet which I idly flipped through while he went on and on about my health and well-being. Then I tossed it on the stack of the other pamphlets he’d been leaving with me over the last week.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy. He’s young and eager. Enthusiastic is probably putting it mildly, but really, my philosophy is ‘You only live once, why not enjoy it?’
I waved goodbye to Jared at the end of our session. He smiled and waved back. I’m going to miss him. I admire his convictions, and I’m sure he’ll live a long, healthy life. Me? Don’t hold your breath.
I’m being released tomorrow. I’m going home and have a pizza. ‘Third one’s the charm’ was what Jared said. That’s fine with me. I’m going to have a whole load of my favorite foods delivered, too, because I feel like I owe myself a little reward. I’ve gone through a lot with this second heart attack. I think I deserve a treat.
I’ll take it easy at home and in a few more weeks, when I’m fully recovered, I’ll go back to work. The doctor says to not push it and I won’t. My boss says I can work half days if I want, and we’ll see how it goes. I mean I just sit at a computer all day long, it’s not that stressful. Really, all I care about is coming home from work and having my dinner and watching television.
I must have dozed off because I was startled awake by one of the food services people, Samantha, I think, saying, “Rise and shine, Wendell. It’s dinnertime.”
She wheeled the cart over and helped me set up my tray. “Here we go.”
I glanced at the broiled chicken and mashed potatoes and apple sauce and tried not to think about it. Instead, I gritted my teeth. What’s with the we and the us with these people? Isn’t it bad enough they were starving me to death?
But I kept my opinion to myself and said, politely, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Wendell. See you tomorrow.”
I smiled a smug smile, “I don’t think so. I’m supposed to be discharged tomorrow.”
She looked at my chart. “No, I’m sorry. I guess the doctor thinks you need more time to recover.” She shook her head sadly. “I guess your heart is in pretty bad shape.”
Well, that wasn’t going to fly. I picked up the phone and called the nurses’ station. I gave them a piece of my mind, let me tell you.
A week later, and I’m still here. I’m not happy about it but Jared is.
“I’m super glad you’re still with us, Wendell. We’ll get you back ship-shape in no time,” he said earlier today. “You’ve got a lot of years left in that old heart of yours.”
Maybe, but I don’t think so. I miss my favorite foods too much and don’t care if they’re going to kill me. I’ll put up with the hospital’s good intentions, especially Jared’s since he’s such a nice guy, but I’m not changing my original plan. I’m going to get home eventually and have my pizza and chips and all my favorite foods and eat to my heart’s content. Like I said, you only live once.
I’ve just got to get out of here first.