Staying Safely Gluten Free During a Family Tragedy

In early January, my sister had brain surgery, leading to a stroke and paralyzation of the left side of her body. She was in an induced coma for over a week. My family practically lived at the hospital. I tried to put aside my worries about cross-contamination, but I quickly realized that it was going to be difficult to take care of myself with healthy food during this intense situation.

The cafeteria at Dartmouth-Hitchcock is pretty nice, dishing out inexpensive somewhat healthy hot food everyday. However, upon speaking with servers and their supervisors, I learned that they do not have ANY PROTOCOLS for dealing with gluten cross contamination. Wait . . . what?

I was told that the only thing safe for me at the cafeteria was prewrapped gluten free cookies.

I tried to cook and pack food everyday, but I have to admit that it was difficult some days. Many days, I wound up desperately running down to the cafeteria and buying a gluten free cookie because I was hungry, low on energy and time. Thankfully, there is a natural foods co-op across the street from the hospital. Although, at times, their gf selection was lacking.

We also had a kitchen in our hotel room, so I did the best I could putting together healthy breakfasts.

I also bought a big bottle of “safe” salad dressing and threw salads together with mesclun greens, cheese curds, and a protein source on the regular.

I found this cheat sheet in the kitchen of the intensive care unit. I am so scared of ever having to be in the hospital because I really don’t think that doctors, nurses, nursing assistants have any clue about food allergies and intolerances.

My sister has moved to rehab and I have gotten into a new routine, visiting once every other week, so I have been at home a lot more and have been pretty good about making dinner every night and whipping up treats. I’ll write a special post about all those soon!


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