Are There Gluten Free Hospitals? It Depends…

HospitalSignA couple of years ago I had to go to the hospital. The thought of going to the hospital put fear in my heart, but not for the reasons you might expect. I was not afraid of the medical procedure I had to undergo. I was more afraid of the food I might be served!

Because I can’t eat gluten without getting sick, I worried that all the people who needed to know about my gluten intolerance would not be informed. I know how bureaucracies operate, and sometimes communication is the weakest link. I know it’s hard to think about a hospital in those terms, but I couldn’t help but worry. I admit I am a natural born worrier! But I’m so careful about what I eat and I didn’t relish the thought of going to the hospital and getting sicker. I like feeling good!

I decided I had to take the bull by the horns. I developed a plan of attack that you might find helpful. The first thing I did was tell my doctor to write in big letters on the hospital admission order that I have Celiac Disease and need a special diet. I also told him to make sure that it was noted that I cannot have medications with a gluten coating either.

The next thing I did was telephone the hospital chief dietician and make an appointment. I met with her and we discussed my dietary limitations. We went over the meals that were scheduled and determined what would be good substitutes. For example, I told her I would appreciate fruit for snacks and dessert. The dietician said my family can also bring fruit to the hospital which was nice to know.

On the day I was admitted to the hospital, I asked the admitting clerk to write everything down again. She marked the chart in great big black letters that I am gluten intolerant. It was also noted in the comments section on the computer screen files. Wherever it asked about dietary restrictions the clerk put a note about not being able to eat gluten.

Then once I was in my room, I started my campaign again. On every meal request sheet I always wrote in big letters that I am a Celiac and not able to eat anything containing gluten. I told every hospital staff person I came in contact with, because as you know, they each are responsible for a different task. I told nurses, nurse aides, doctors, interns, and even candy-stripers that I am gluten intolerant. When I was sent to the x-ray department, I was very vocal about telling the technicians and doctors that I am gluten intolerant and can have a severe reaction to certain dyes used during the procedures if they contain gluten.

Even with all the precautions I took, when meals were delivered I looked at them with suspicion. I checked every item and if anything looked questionable, I didn’t eat it. I reported my suspicions to the dietary department so they could either give me feedback or plan for the next Celiac that is admitted to the hospital. I also questioned all medication that was administered if I did not recognize the name.

Would I do anything different the next time I go to the hospital? The only thing I would do differently is find out what kinds of prepared foods and snacks (besides fruit) my family is allowed to bring to me while I am in the hospital.

My hospital stay was very successful and I was never exposed to gluten. If you have to go to the hospital, just make sure you do lots of planning ahead of time, and while there, don’t be afraid to be very vocal about your dietary limitations. Even hospitals can make mistakes.

 

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