Rehabilitation hospital experience

Kriselda writes:

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m in the 500+ pound range. There are a number of reasons for my weight gain – I won’t go into detail here – but between lifelong battles with osteoarthritis developing in my knees due to a misalignment of my kneecaps, the OCD’s that so often accompany Tourette’s Syndrome, a low metabolism, a family history of obesity and depression, its not terribly surprising that I’m fat.

Two years ago, I was hospitalized for a seriously infected leg ulcer. I spent 3 weeks in a “regular” hospital and 3 months in a rehabilitation hospital. The people at the regular hospital were wonderful. None of them seemed to make any assumptions about my size or ever made me feel the least bit self-conscious about my size. My primary-care physician doesn’t have privileges at this hospital (it was my insurance company that picked it,) so I was being cared for my doctors who specialize in handling that kind of a situation. The doctors didn’t put me on any kind of a reduced-calorie diet, explaining to me that if they did try to put me on a restricted diet, I likely would not be able to get sufficient calories – and the corresponding energy – that my body would need to heal that wound. In addition, They listened my needs, when they needed to get people together to help move me, they did so without any fuss and everyone was very kind and courteous to me. It was truly a wonderful experience.

The rehabilitation hospital, however, was a whole different matter. One of the first things I tell any medical person treating me is that in spite of my size, I am NOT diabetic – I’ve never even been diagnosed as borderline diabetic or as having “pre-diabetes.” My blood sugar levels are just fine, and they always have been. Same with my blood pressure – 120/80 is normal for me. I know I have to make a point to mention it, though, because anyone medical professional looking at me is going to assume that I’m severely diabetic with blood pressure and cholesterol levels off the chart.

Apparently, they didn’t listen. Now, one of the wonderful little quirks my body has is that it HATES, absolutely LOATHES aspartame, and most other artificial sweetners. But it has a special antagonism for Nutra-sweet and it’s siblings. If I drink even a small cup of diet kool-aid or a small bowl of diet jell-o, I’ll get horrific stomach cramps, gas and diarrhea. And once it’s been disrupted by the stuff, I can be sick like that for hours or even a couple of days. So in addition to pointing out that I’m not diabetic, I also make sure to stress that, under no circumstances, should I be given artificially sweetened ANYTHING. (I also don’t do good with fake fats or other “low fat” foods, but its not nearly as bad as aspartame.)

I’m sure you can guess where this is going. Yep, someone marked my chart as “diabetic.” I didn’t realize it until, after drinking a small cup of kool-aid, I had my usual reaction. I told every nurse who saw me over the next day, as well as the physician treating me there, to make sure my chart got marked that I’m not diabetic. Dinner came around? More stuff with Nutra-sweet. After 3 days of no one seeming to get the message, I just started refusing to eat anything from their kitchen and had my husband bring me some crackers and stuff I could nibble on during the day, and a sandwich I could have for dinner.

Then, about 2 weeks after I was admitted, out of NOWHERE, nurses started to show up every six hours to TEST MY BLOOD SUGAR. I kept telling them it wasn’t necessary, but they kept coming, so after about 2 days, I demanded to speak to the head of the hospital so I could talk to them about the problem with them constantly trying to feed me diatetic food (even after I started having my husband bring me stuff, they still kept sending me meals – every one with diet kool-air and diet jell-o) and testing my blood sugar. She was very nice and understanding, and said she’d get right on it. It took another day for the blood-sugar tests to stop and another week for them to quit sending me diet food, but, eventually, she did get the problem resolved.

The whole thing infuriated me, though. Yes, I’m fat. It’s kinda hard to miss. But that doesn’t automatically mean that I have heart disease (I don’t), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or any of the other oft-cited co-morbidities. I do have arthritis, but that was developing long before I moved from the “overweight” category to the “obese” category, and sleep apnea. That’s it.

Gods forbid I ever have to go back to the hospital again, but if I do, you can be sure I’m going to sit down whomever first takes all my information and make sure they truly understand that I’m NOT diabetic and that if anyone tries to give me food with aspartame in it, there WILL be trouble.

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  1. First thing: Don’t hate to admit your weight. You are what you are, it’s a number, just like how you might measure X cm tall.

    Second thing: Because of fat bias and assumptions made based on fat, you were ignored, and then harmed, ignored some more, and had to get lower quality of care and suffer weeks of useless discomfort.

    Third thing: It’s these kinds of unnecessary interventions — extra testing, special foods, etc — that make so many nurses and doctors swear that fat people, in general, use more resources than thin. Don’t you think your biases may have something to do with it, oh holy medical professionals?

    Fourth thing: So sorry you had to go through this.

  2. Sue for malpractise.

    Also, as bigliberty said, don’t “hate to admit!” You’re you. Ain’t no shame. 🙂

  3. lilacsigil

     /  June 5, 2009

    Oh no, it’s all “evidence-based” medicine! Nothing to do with prejudice and preconceptions at all! Ha!

    Also, I’m really surprised to find someone else who reacts badly to artificial sweeteners. Most of them just leave a bad taste in my mouth and sometimes a stomach cramp, but Nutra-Sweet gives me the runs. I thought it was just me! Thanks for sharing that!

  4. JennyRose

     /  June 6, 2009

    What clods. You know your body better than anyone – too bad the docs don’t know that.

    If they are serious about health what’s with all the chemicals? Diet jello? Diet kool-aid. I do eat them – a lot – sometimes – but all the fake fat, diet food and artificial sweeteners are not tolerated by many people.

    I got rid of all the fake stuff when I stopped dieting. For me, real sour cream, butter etc. tastes great and is so much more satisfying. I also feel like I am independent of the diet world when I eat them. I think this food makes me feel so good because it is my way of healing the years of dieting abuse.

  5. I’m sorry all that happened to you! It is frustrating at best.

    You are allowed to refuse tests and procedures and medicine. I’ve done it before. Say clearly “I do not consent for you to do X test/etc.” Especially if you can get a witness in the room.

    I went to the hospital for dehydration when I had a stomach virus. On my admission card, in the section where they write the medical problem you came in with, was “gastro virus/dehydration; obesity”. Who knew that being simply being fat was cause for admission to the ER? It’s no wonder there are stats that “obesity” causes more hospital admissions if doctors write it down when you come in for anything at all.

  6. Cindy

     /  June 12, 2009

    I’m in a relationship with a medical professional.

    They are practically trained to assume the Gospel According to Dr. House: Everybody Lies. And no one is a compliant patient. Seriously.

    Working with people who are in pain takes a certain kind of temperament. Most of the egg-heady folks in medicine don’t have said temperament.


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