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Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Dark Side of the Holidays & a Little Comfort

21 December 2012

How are your holidays going?  Perfect?  Ozzie and Harriet?  I hope so, but I am sure most of us have our own tales of holiday stress, with maybe family drama fit-for-reality-tv thrown in as well.

I'm very much feeling the dark side of the holidays this year.  I suppose we are all a bit raw and emotionally vulnerable due to recent horrific events in Connecticut.  For many of us 'sensitive types', just walking through the stores and seeing bright and healthy 6-7 year olds is enough to send us into tears.

That's what happened to me yesterday while shopping and struggling to get into the holiday mind-set.  I was left numb by the materialistic trappings and could not, for the life of me, eek any joy out of my holiday shopping.

I could only think of the suffering of parents who had probably already done shopping for those beautiful children and for the adults lost as well.

Having been a substitute teacher in our local school system for 8 years, and having drilled many lock-down situations, I could fairly easily put myself in the shoes of the substitute teacher who was killed at Sandy least the initial moments.  I have struggled with trying to stop thinking about her.

Couple this with renewed drama in our own family and I could feel my impending melt-down hovering just under the surface despite my best efforts to insulate myself from the constant coverage of the horror....I knew it would hit, and when it finally did, it was hard and fast.

Today, I am left with that dull, drained, I-cried-the-big-ugly-cry feeling.  But, since the world didn't end this morning, I am also left now, with a glimmer of determination that I feel growing.

Many of our holidays resemble something closer to the scenario in the Hollywood-depicted dysfunction-to-the-10th power of "Home for the Holidays", one of my favorite 'holiday movies' starring Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr., than anything Ozzie or Harriet would approve of; still, we needn't despair.

Afterall, these holy-days, or holly-days, depending on your preferred historical source, are just another series of 24 hour blocks of time in our life.  We are free to create and live those hours, more or less, according to our own direction, discretion and predilection. 

It's been said that the best revenge is to prosper and to move forward despite whatever maelstrom may be swirling around you or despite negativity leveled in your direction. 

In a vat of white pearls with a single black stone, the eye is continually drawn to the takes a real force of will to pull attention and resolve away from the distraction.

But it can be done....and should be. 

Those that have perished in such violent and abrupt fashions cannot be brought back.  But we can live, and we can live well, according to our own wishes.  We can flourish in spite of the trauma, the drama and the horror that we sometimes find firmly planted in front of us.  And we owe those souls be the best we can be and to counter the hate in the world with the only thing that will dissolve it.....and the solution isn't more hate.


After all of that exhausting shopping and expenditure of emotion (and a nasty storm that I drove home through), I was craving some comfort.  I decided my favorite soup was in order.  Sweet-potato-spinach soup.  This is from Robin Robertson.  (  scroll down to bottom of page)

A little foccacia bread would be nice to go with that.  I just whip mine up really quickly.  I dissolve yeast in some warm water, let sit for a few minutes.  I add in some more water (probably about a cup) and a squirt of agave and a sprinkling of salt.

(File this in the easily-amused category....I just love the bulk agave now available at Whole Foods...see  Note:  appliances are not as clean as they appear in the photos.)

I add in enough whole-wheat flour to have a still-moist mix, but not gooey.  And I knead until it starts to feel elastic.  After years of baking my own bread and always struggling to get good results in Ohio winters, I finally discovered the secret....cover the rising bowl first with a towel that has been wet in warm water and wrung out, and then another dry towel over that.

For foccacia, I don't let it rise a second time, but after it has about doubled I ease it out onto a pizza stone, take a fork or knife and perforate the surface here and there and bake at 325-350 for about 20 minutes or so. hit the spot and warmed me from the inside out.

Listen, life is tough and sometimes downright ugly.  All we can do it weather the bumps as best as we can, melt-down when we have to, learn and start again.  Sometimes we take a bit more with us and re-evaluate how we spend our 24-hour chunks of time.

My husband and I are having a couple of dear friends over this evening, for the sheer joy of spending time family obligations to fulfill; I won't be judged because my hair's a mess (it is), or my house isn't clean enough (it isn't), but I will be loved for who I am.  And this December, we all could use some more love.

However you choose to spend your holidays, I wish you peace, I wish you the hope of the new year, and above all, I wish you love.

Sue, thriving, in Ohio

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Very Vegan Thanksgiving

Normally, for the past few years, I've done a very non-traditional Thanksgiving meal, usually making lasagna.  It was easy to adapt this recipe when I went to a plant-based diet, and for the last two years I used Rip Esselstyn's fantastic lasagna recipe from Engine 2 Diet.

After the death of my mom, 5 years ago this month, I just wasn't really able to do the 'Thanksgiving thing'.  This year, I am feeling a new level of recovery and want to do something a little more close to our American traditions, (although if you really want to get it authentic, apparently you need to spend the day shooting your guns, eating deer organ meat and getting your kids drunk!  See this amusing reference: )

Stuffed Kabocha and Butternut Squash

I want to take this moment to wish you all a very happy holiday however you may choose to celebrate it (or not celebrate it).   Pausing and being thankful for all that we have in our lives is a good practice for every day!

Thanksgiving Day Menu

Roasted kabocha squash
Roasted butternut squash
 (I will stuff these with a bread/wildrice/pecan/cranberry stuffing)
Homemade rolls
Mashed potatoes (russets and sweet)
Mushroom/onion gravy
Broccoli/cauliflower/quinoa casserole (with homemade cream of celery sauce)
Poached pears with maple syrup and walnuts
German Chocolate Cake

NOTE:  Update:  My youngest son said this is the best vegan meal I've made.  I don't agree with him but was grateful to see his plate very full.  He loved the quinoa casserole which I thought was a disaster.  (My homemade cream of celery sauce needs work....I think I will try adding some mushrooms into the Vita-mix when I blend this and also may use coconut milk or even coconut cream which I recently found at Trader Joe's, to give this a more creamy texture.  It wasn't bad, just not what I was going for.)  The pears were actually my favorite thing....cranberries were too bitter for the stuffing even though I simmered them with a little bit of maple syrup.  I think I'll go with raisins next time.  The leftovers have been good and I'm loving just having cooked butternut around....I roasted three of those and two huge kabochas.  I'll be making a pasta sauce with one of the left-over squashes.

I had the "LET THEM EAT CAKE" attitude which kept me from feeling let down that it wasn't perfect.  (Also, just my immediate family was here, which was drama and to spend the day surrounded by people that I know love me was a true gift).

Sue, cooking, baking and thankful, in Ohio

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Vegucated & Black Garbanzo Banzai Bean Bonanza

I recently viewed the documentary film "Vegucated" (more about the project here: which features three average meat and cheese-loving Americans as they embark on a 6-week committment to a vegan diet.  I enjoyed the film and feel that it did a good job of covering the basic reasons a person would choose a vegan life-style, including a decent expose of factory farm cruelties.  I like the fact that the film (written and directed by Marisa Miller Wolfson) did not sugar coat the horrific acts of animal cruelty that factory farming has brought about and did have enough graphic photography to illustrate the point, but not so much that I would suffer a two-week depression following the viewing (I still haven't made it all the way through "Earthlings" yet---that stuff just really upsets me).  Exposure of animal farm practices were taken a step further by de-bunking some myths (and advertising implications) of 'free range' animals as well, and that was good to see.

The film features Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who conducts before and after tests on the three participants and also educates them on the nutritional benefits of a plant-based diet.

As the weeks go by, we are shown the day-to-day struggles with trying to maintain a vegan diet, and I think most people who have switched to this life-style or are trying to will recognize the hurdles and relate to the struggles.

I wish there had been a bit more about the actual food preparation and the variety of foods available and more time spent with the experts they interviewed (T. Colin Campbell for one), but it's a nicely done and inspirational film that ends with a great message:  that we all can make a difference, with each and every meal and food choice we make.

As a special feature, there is a 10 minute video of Dr. Fuhrman conducting a Q & A with two of the participants.  (I would have loved to see some other special features as well....maybe one with Dr. Campbell and also Howard Lyman who is featured on the film too---I always want more :-). 

Dr. Fuhrman lays the premises for this type of diet out plainly for Brian and Tesla and expertly fields the questions they have had leveled at them from non-vegans in their lives that don't understand the science behind such a seemingly radical shift.  (This Q & A session contains the one thing about the film that really bothered me....I found the one male participant, Brian, to be a bit of a smart-a#*, and I know he's trying to be funny, but found his attitude toward Dr. Fuhrman disrespectful.....still I applaud his efforts and think it is very brave to offer oneself up as an experiment for public viewing).

Some of Dr. Fuhrman's remarks:

The bottom line right now is that 51% of all Americans die of heart attacks or strokes.
Most Americans eat a diet that is 40% animal products and 50% processed foods.  That diet is particularly dangerous because they are missing not one or two nutrients, but LOTS of phytochemicals and anti-oxidants that are only found in fruits and veggies, nuts and beans.  Natural plants foods provide the full spectrum of nutrients that we need for maximizing our health.

All-in-all, it's a film worth viewing and one that may help you field questions and deflect attacks from others.  If you are already firmly on the plant-based food path, you probably will not learn alot of new information, but still, it is empowering to see others adopt this lifestyle and is always good to re-affirm one's committment.
I had two interesting things cross my path recently.  I took some of my little grandaughter's outgrown clothing to an area resale shop and happened to be wearing one of my 'vegan' t-shirts.  The sales clerk that was helping me commented that she liked my shirt.  It took me a minute, but then I asked, are you vegetarian?  or vegan?  Turns out she is vegan!  (Insert happy dance here!).  I tried not to leap over the counter and attack her with hugs, but couldn't help but be sooo excited and we chatted briefly about how good we feel about our choices and vegan food in general.  I ended up giving her my blog address so if you are on here reading this, hello vegan-sister!  It just made my day meeting her.

The other thing that happened is the yin to all that yang.....a neighbor down the street had a heart attack and is having quadruple bypass surgery in a few days.  Now, I don't know how to put this delicately, but he has been living a lifestyle that has steered him directly into the path of this particular freight train.  He's very over-weight, doesn't walk from place to place out here (in the country, just walking to get the mail can be a bit of exercise since most of us live set back from the road), preferring to drive his ATV everywhere.  There are other factors in his life as well that predispose him for illness, but I thought it was very interesting that within just a few days, I would meet a trim, fit vegan and find out about this health scare with my neighbor.  He's the person that Dr. Fuhrman talks about in that 51% death statistic.  Of course I am wishing him well and perhaps this will be an opportunity for me to share some food options with him.  There, but for the grace of kale, go the rest of us!

Grand-daughter on 2-yr birthday, modeling some resale clothes (and snatching her uncle's cap)

Black Garbanzo Bean Banzai Bonanza

(Note:  "Banzai" means 10,000 years---maybe if we eat enough beans & veggies we will have long life.  Plus, I thought it just sounded cool in the recipe title.)

Okay, so remember those black garbanzos I got at Whole Foods?  Well, I decided to cook some up and toss them in with various left-overs I had in the frig.  They are really pretty as they are cooking up....they have kind of a reddish cast to them in addition to the black.  I paired them with some rice, using short-grain brown rice (would be great with a blend of wild and mahogany rice too), and added in some corn, baby peas, left-over broccoli chopped up, cubed roasted butternut squash, (some slivered almonds would be nice on top too) and then I threw together a sauce to layer on top of it all.  The sauce is a variation on Dr. Esselstyn's mushroom gravy.  I chopped up about 5 onions and carmelized them in a frying pan with just enough water to keep from sticking.  Letting them brown pretty well adds more color and flavor to the sauce.  I added veg. stock, I don't measure but probably used at least two cups.  I mixed up a thickener (I used whole wheat flour, maybe 1/4 cup) whisking with some of the stock and about 1 T of soy sauce (would prefer tamari here) and added it gradually to the onion mix.  I tossed in some sliced mushrooms to cook while heating the sauce.  I added more liquid to get desired consistency and lightly seasoned.  (Sauce will thicken so it is better to add a bit more liquid than less).
Black Garbanzo Banzai Bean Bonanza

A layer of spinach could be added as well; another opportunity to add in some greens---the possibilities are endless.  Note:  I really wanted to have the rice as a bottom layer, then veggies and the sauce/gravy on top, but I used a casserole dish that was too shallow so it ended up being in two separate dishes and I heated in a 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Paired with some raw carrots fresh from my garden it was a very nice meal.

As Dr. Fuhrman points out in the Vegucated documentary, virtually all protein and other nutrients consumed on the planet originates through plants.  An animal may eat another animal who ate the plants; but the source is the plant.  I love that, as vegans, we cut out the middle-guy, and get the direct source.

Sue, celebrating good health & eating my beans, in Ohio

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cool Beans and New Winner for my Giveaway

Beans....more than just the musical fruit, they are soooo good for us and I've come to worship them.  Okay, not really worship, but.....  I have reached the conclusion that I am much healthier and have significantly more energy available if I consume my beans daily.  I believe that it is the micro-nutrients supplied by beans that really makes the difference.  I am tempted to launch into an alphabet soup of the nutrients that are found in beans, but will leave that for other more organized bloggers.  Let's just put it like this:  they are good for us.

I am so fortunate to have a Whole Foods store within driving distance (about an hour away) and our store is currently in the midst of a major remodel.  Since I only go there maybe twice a month, it's been a bit of an adventure walking in and suddenly not knowing where things are.  This last visit I quickly noticed the new bulk section and the expansion of beans and other legumes to Whole Foods' already fairly impressive selection.  I couldn't help but try some new ones.  I did contain my legume enthusiasm though and made just four choices:

From left to right they are:  Christmas Lima Beans, Fava Beans, Appaloosa Beans and Black Garbanzos

  1. Here's a close up of the Christmas Limas and the Favas.

I'm always playing around with new ways to get beans into my diet, even resorting to tossing them in with my smoothies.  Recently, I made this's not quite a dip, and not quite a casserole....sort of a dip-sserole I guess.  What it is, is pretty darn good and I found non-vegans enjoyed it as well.

Cool Beans "Dip-sserole"

Layer in a dish in this order or as you prefer:

1 can vegetarian refried beans (or make your own--easy: blend cooked beans with veg broth adjusting amount of liquid for desired consistency)
Cooked short-grain brown rice (I used about a cup and a half for an 8 inch square dish)
Medium salsa (approx. 1 cup)
Cooked black beans (about 3/4 can)
Cooked corn  (approx one cup)
1 C of vegan sour cream (I made Lindsay Nixon's from Everyday Happy Herbivore)
Chopped tomatoes

You could easily adapt this recipe to make it more like the traditional 7 layer taco dip, by adding in a layer of chopped green onions and black olives, also you could add a layer of avocado blended with lemon juice.  I like the simple flavors my version had and it lended itself well as a dip and also was good spread in a wrap. (It's not bad with just a fork either!).


New winner for my cookbook giveaway.  Valerie, I give up.  Can't find ya, girl, and these books are getting dusty, so I drew a new winner (I put your name in this time too, Todd).  New winner is:

Tom and Patti B.!  Congrats and please e-mail me with your shipping info so I can get these books sent off!  (

Sue, eating cool beans, in Ohio

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Give-away Winner and Cucumber Salsa

I hope you had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend.  My husband and I about worked ourselves into the ground in this Ohio humidity doing stall and paddock construction work.  Phew....good to get these projects done, but it really is quite a bit of work and being able to do the work made me even more grateful that my body is fueled on a plant-based diet.

We had our darling little granddaughter here for part of the weekend too and I enlisted her help in picking a winner for my 2nd Anniversary (or Vegan Birthday as one of my readers calls it....LOVE that!) giveaway.    And the winner is......


Congratulations, Valerie.  Be sure to e-mail me your shipping info (, so I can mail your books to you.

As you can see, my granddaughter really wanted ALL of the entries to soon as she picked Valerie's name, she proceeded to pick everyone else.  She's a little fuzzy on that 'pick one' thing, but I like the way she thinks....everyone's a winner.


Cucumber Salsa.

I am so lucky to have some people in my life that are truly wonderful.  Of course there is my immediate family, but I also have soul sisters that are always looking out for me and show me love in the most special ways.  One of them, Debbie, cuts out vegan articles in the newspaper, texts me when one of my favorite authors ends up in the hospital  (Richard Bach, recovering from what I can learn, author of Illusions which I highly recommend and many more), and generally has my back.  She recently told me about a cucumber salsa that she makes for her family ---- I had a chance to make it today and it is wonderful.  Here's Debbie's recipe:

2 -3 medium cucumbers, peeled, chopped (deseeding optional)
2 -3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C green pepper, choped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T lime or lemon juice
1 t parsley
2 t cilantro
1/2 t dill
1/2 t salt

Combine ingredients and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

I used red pepper in place of the green and used a large onion---also extra lime juice.  I omitted the jalapeno but when I make this for my family, I will add that in since they enjoy the heat.

Cucumber salsa.

I think I will add in some mango next time also as its sweetness would go really nice with the other flavors.  This salsa screams freshness and summer and is a great way to use up some of those garden tomatoes.  I had about half a cup of black beans in the bottom of that pita and this was a wonderful topping for that.  The possibilities are endless.   Thanks, Debbie!  Love you!

Sue, working hard and eating fresh, in Ohio

Friday, August 24, 2012

Summertime, Summertime and a Give-Away

I have so many blog entries I need to catch up on, but am still so busy with summer activities that it'll probably be awhile before I finish the many drafts I have 'pending'.  I do need to make the time to get on here though as I want to do my 2nd Annual Anniversary Blog Giveaway.   In mid-July I passed the mile-stone of two years on a vegan diet.  I am so very proud of this accomplishment and decided to celebrate this year with a give-away of two of my favorite vegan cookbooks.  I'm giving away a copy of Robin Robertson's "Vegan Planet".  This is one of the very first vegan cookbooks that I purchased and even though there is oil in many of her recipes, they are usually easily adaptable and it is just a fun and inspiring cookbook.  Here is a link to Robin's page describing this monster of a book.

I'm also giving away a copy of Lindsay S. Nixon's first book, Happy Herbivore.  This cookbook is definitely one of my 'go-to' books and is where I got my oft-used and very satisfying ranch dressing up ranch dressing was one thing that really bothered me when I switched to a vegan diet and finding this recipe really filled that gap.  Here's a link to more info about Lindsay's book.

You don't have to do anything snazzy to enter; just leave me a quick comment...if you'd like to let me know what you've been up to this summer, that would be cool too.  I'll run the contest for one week and draw a winner next Friday, Aug. 31st.  Be sure to check back for the announcement of the winner as I'll need shipping info at that time to mail you the books.  Good luck!


Here is some of what I've been up to this summer.....

Fresh-picked from the garden......poor quality photo from my archaic cell phone
Baby praying these guys....we have tons of them, always gives me a thrill when I spot one in the garden.

Two of my three raised beds

Broccoli!!!  Finally able to grow some-I used Agribon as a cover to keep the cabbage moths out.

Various heirloom tomatoes including a yellow pear.  I foresee lots of tomato sauce in my freezer soon.

Redo of front flower bed that has been a total weed-fest....dug it completely out.  Sometimes in gardening (as in life) you simply have to start over.
Time with my precious grand-daughter....she's an awesome veggie eater
Indulge one more of her cuteness

My beautiful horse, Sky.  Restarted his training this summer.

The girls enjoying the pasture which is hanging in there despite sporadic rainfall---lots of work this summer on fence repair and general farm maintenance.

I'll swap this out when I get a decent picture of my beautiful girl, Dani, half-sister to Sky.  I've been riding most mornings after regular farm chores are done and am finally getting my 'riding chops' back after a bad fall I had last spring.
More yummies from the garden....these purple carrots were wonderful and found their way into a carrot cake snack bar recipe
which is pictured here and I'd give you the recipe except it really wasn't very good--definitely needs tweaking.  Stick with just berries, like these from our local farm market.
Happy Summer and Happy Anniversary to Me!
Sue, savoring summer, in Ohio

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Part 6: Section A: Follow-Up, The Lessons

Part 6:   Follow-Up, The Lessons, Section A.

"If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry.  If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying.  There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever."  Dalai Lama XIV

"One should not increase beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything."  Occam's Razor, often interpreted modernly as 'the simplest solution is usually the best' or that 'the simplest answer is usually correct'.

I followed up with my doctor at early Sick Bay first thing Monday morning.  I was informed by the nurse taking my vitals that they don't usually do hospital stay follow-ups in Sick Bay (ok, what is up with these medical people?  Are they TRYING to make us feel bad???), to which I replied as kindly as I possibly could that I had spoken with my doc on the phone and that it had been HER suggestion that I come in Monday a.m.  (I refrained from sticking out my tongue at her and saying 'so there!', reminding myself that I'm not a 9 year old...).

Doc comes in, I bring her up to speed about E.R. trip number 2, and about the return of my hives and how I am grasping at straws about this development.  She says that some people will get hives when they get nervous.  Wha????   I quickly dismiss this and go back to being allergic to something in the E.R., but this lodges stiffly in my cerebral cortex or wherever it is that I keep stuff that will come back to haunt me.

She puts me on a short course of prednisone saying that if there is anything left in my body that I'm allergic to, that'll take care of's a step-down program of two days of 4 pills, two days of 3 pills, two days of 2, two days of 1; you can't just stop taking that stuff abruptly.  I bristle at the thought of more meds, but figure my liver can handle it since I don't drink or do meds of any kind, and anything is better than those hives.  At this point, I'm pretty much walking around jumping at every little twinge on my skin, going 'is that a hive?', 'is that one?'.

We discuss my esophagus/gastric issue and she confides that she has a reflux issue and that the only way she feels it is in the center of her back---this to my concern over how the pain started at my sternum and went straight back to my back.  The place she is touching on her back is the precise area where my pain radiated to.  So I'm thinking, ok, that sounds similar.  She confirms that this type of pain, if esopageal or hiatal hernial, can be extremely painful.  We talk about causes and I don't have the main two which is smoking and drinking or obesity and diet; the third is a bacteria, H. Pylori and she had ordered that test when I was in the hospital.  At the time of my visit to her office, we still didn't have the results of that and I'll need to call and follow up on that (I did call, test was negative, back to square one).  I'm to schedule a follow up appt. with her in 6 weeks.

She has me on double doses of Prevacid for those 6 weeks to eliminate acid the logic being that this will give my body time to heal whatever it is in my esophagus or wherever.  Since I feel better at this point, and really it was just a matter of days before nearly all symptoms were gone, I really want to stop taking this, but I fear divorce court in my future as my husband says I need to give my body more time to ensure complete healing.  He's been such a hero for me through all of this trauma, that I quickly agreed to comply.


About mid-way through writing up all of this ordeal, I got the feeling that perhaps I shouldn't be airing the totality of these events on the world-wide-web-ernet, but then I realized that there just are too many lessons here, too many caveats and precautionary aspects to not share.  Probably much of this experience has been a fluke, but already I have found a couple of other people who had similar experiences.  One eerily similar account only with a different category of symptoms; if protocol one in the E. R. is CHEST PAIN = HEART ATTACK, then protocol two is HEADACHE=STROKE.  A dear friend had to endure endless testing culminating in a painful spinal tap, all the while saying she had had an allergic reaction to Dawn soap.....which is what it did end up being, but no one would listen to her.  Another friend went through a similar situation to mine at another hospital; again CHEST PAIN = HEART ATTACK, endless testing down the cardiac route; hers was acid reflux.

{Which reminds me.....speaking of Heart Attack....does anyone else think that's a really crazy term?  I know there are other technical descriptions for it, but Heart Attack is the prevailing term--attack???  Just hits me weird.}

Ok Lessons.

Some of the great surprises I had during my E.R. visits and hospital stay were the blood pressure readings I was putting out.  I have seen these high numbers before, when I have been in the E.R. following a horse-back riding accident, but I have been working alot on relaxation techniques and various other Zen-ish type applications as I am aware that I tend to be a bit high-strung/type A-ish (one too many 'ish's' in that sentence, but I am digress-ish).  I truly felt I was making vast improvements in these areas and many times I would glance over at the B.P. monitor and just KNOW that it was going to be 117/80 as I truly felt relaxed and had been doing deep breathing, etc. only to be stunned at the extraordinarily high numbers showing.

Clearly, my body has its own agenda and its own 'score card' on how relaxed I am.

If the body is an interface with which I, as a spiritual being, can interact with the physical universe, then it needs to run its own systems and does an amazing job of doing so.  I can't seriously be bothered with all the intricate and myriad inner workings of my body and the design is pretty darn good, but I know that our mental, emotion and, I believe, spiritual state directly influences the body and its systems.

What I realized is that, for myself, I have only viewed that spirit-mind-body-connection from the POSITIVE side of things...i.e. how I can use my positive thinking to heal myself.  I haven't allowed myself to explore the dark side of all of this, viewing it as a personal weakness if I am causing some of this....i.e. 'it's all in your head'.

Facing the reality of those high b.p. readings and the gentle suggestion from my doc that hives could be a result of nerves, I now have to look at these possibilities.

We are hard-wired, like all animals, with a fight/flight response and in times of stress our body wants to mobilize its defenses and be ready to ensure survival.  I think that is what some of those high numbers reflect, but in such a situation, calm on a cellular level is a preferrable state....and worry, does come into play, even though I completely agree with His Holiness the Dalai Lama about the lack of productiveness of worry:  Worry only produces worry as its outcome (or maybe high blood pressure readings).

I have instituted some practices to help me develop in these areas, chief among them the healing art of Qi Gong as well as yoga.  (For more about Qi Gong, see: Interlaced with these practices, I have upped my breathing education and development, finally making time to delve into a book that I've had for some time, that I had acquired for the purpose of relaxing my breath to improve my horsemanship.  We spend so much time breathing shallowly and tend to get more and more shallow as time goes on, thereby mimicking that short-breathed fight/flight response (think when a little thing makes you do that quick intack of air and gasp).  Sometimes, what we really need is more air.  (See:  The Breathing Book, by Donna Farhi   You can pick up a used copy for under $7.  I highly recommend it.)

Which brings me to number one on my 'Survive List':

What do we need to survive and to THRIVE? Oxygen, Water, Rest, that order (more or less, I believe we can go longer without nutrients than rest, but without the nutrients, your body is going to shut down anyway.).

The number one element our bodies need, oxygen, and we spend about zero time studying the breath, improving it, or incorporating the betterment of it into our health programs.

We aren't taught to stay in the natural breathing state that we come into this world possessing and even if we do stop and take a few deep breaths, most of us immediately go back to our habitual breathing.  Farhi explains the added benefits of breath besides the obvious and also explains why we can't just decide to breathe more deeply and have that be that.  I'm now devoting at least 15 mins a day to the study of how to improve my breathing to reap all the benefits and to provide my body with this essential element that every cell in the body needs. (15 minutes doesn't sound like much, but some days it is harder to find that time than others and it is a commitment I know I can keep). Without proper oxygenation, the cells cannot create energy and cannot do their work.

Number two on my 'Survive List':

Water.  How much water do we truly need?  Of course this amount would vary from individual to individual and even with any one person as a reflection of any combination of factors....including temperature, workload, fatigue, stress and so on.  But I was never so keenly aware of the vitalness of simple hydration until collapsing from the lack of it.  My hospital stay didn't supply me with the 2nd most important component of survival and this even though I had an I.V. hub in my arm at all times.  I wasn't allowed to drink; why then weren't fluids administered through the I.V.?  I'll tell you why and this is the number one most important lesson I learned:  BECAUSE I DIDN'T DEMAND IT.  Because I didn't advocate for myself, because I was in a medical facility and turned my care over to the professionals.  Why would I do that?  The basics HAVE to be provided for and one canNOT assume that they will be.  I will not be over-looking these simple requirements for life again and my husband and I have had conversations about this, how we need to advocate for each other and NOT assume the obvious is taken care of.

I have since come to realize that even with the large amount of water I drink, I am probably still far short of what is actually needed by my body.  When you consider that the body is anywhere from 55-75% water depending on the reference you use, the rightful status of water on our priority list becomes clear.

How much water do we really need? The broad strokes are about 64 oz./day with more if we are exercising and in conditions that dehydrate us, i.e. sun/heat. But our individual bodies are the true judge of what we need. We can use a number of indicators including just pinching the skin on the back of our hands and observing elasticity.

It was so ironic that I would become dehydrated to the point of collapse as the big joke in our house is that I don't go get the mail without a bottle of water. I seriously almost always have water with me, but clearly, I had abandoned my body's second most basic need, trumped in importance only by oxygen, and this during a time of extreme stress. I deferred to the 'experts' around me, when clearly they didn't even understand my basic need of water!

I am more aware now of my body's symptoms of needing water and have noticed a drastic reduction in things like the number of times I feel like I need to reach for the chapstick, also an improvement in my skin's overall condition, etc.  The slight ache that precipitates a headache can be a signal to me that I need water.  I'm still playing with this to find what my optimum water consumption is.

{I know there are a couple of conditions that can result from over-consumption of water, but these situations are pretty rare.  In addition to paying attention to the 'bounce-back' elasticity of skin, and other indicators, the color of urine excreted can be should be colorless or light yellow.  (TMI here, but I noticed how dark mine was in the hospital and the nurses/staff were supposed to be monitoring this.  Again, another instance of me dismissing my own observations and turning my care over to the professionals).}.

Oftentimes the simplest solution IS the correct one, but good luck convincing medical staff that there may be a simple explanation for a given condition.  Still, one MUST be vigilant in their own health.  I think about how I interrogate restaurant staff about food preparation methods and ingredients in what I am the rice prepared in chicken broth?  Is there lard in the beans?  Do you add oil when frying veggies on the grill?  I am amazed at instances where even though I have made it clear "NO DAIRY", that when pressing further the waiter will say something like, well there IS butter on the veggies that we grill, but none on the plate.  (Insert hand slap to the forehead here).  So, I think we have to be at LEAST as vigilant, diligent and whatever other kind of -ant/-ent need be when we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of being at the mercy of health care professionals as we are in our day-to-day food screening.  Can I have water?  If no then, how are you going to ensure I am adequately hydrated? many years of education these people have and we have to tell them we need water???  Yes.....yes we do.

To be continued......


Healthy Food 

What does it take for us to eat healthily? I thought I knew these answers and I still believe that I know quite a bit about it, but I am more concerned now with what I do NOT know. We are limited by research done by experts and by the cumulative observations of others as well as anecdotal evidence we run across. It can be a confusing labyrinth to negotiate as we try to plot the healthiest course for ourselves.

But the greatest teacher is right in front of us and in fact is with us 24 hours a day: our body.

Having learned the hard way that it is not a good thing to ignore the subtle (and not so subtle) communications of the body, I am tuning into its wisdom more and more.  I am taking note of things like cramping in the feet or lower extremities, paying attention to early pangs of hunger and thinking more about the freshness of the food I eat and ensuring a variety of nutrients DAILY.

One of the best ways to control the QUALITY of food ingested is the most obvious:  grow it yourself.  Almost everyone has room for at least a patio container garden of sorts, or even a simple herb garden on a kitchen countertop. 

I am fortunate to have space and also a handy husband who has added raised beds for me.  It is a real joy to go out and harvest one's own food.  Other benefits: 
I know exactly what I am, non-GMO seeds. (Check
I know what it is growing in... mostly composted manure from horses that I feed organic hay to and that eat on organic grass pastures.
I control what goes on these added pesticides or anything other than our own water supply and rainfall (which granted I can't control what is in that, but still).
And it is fresh....I can cut it in the morning and have it for wasn't handled by anyone else, didn't go on a truck for days, sit on a shelf in a store, etc. 

I think we have to start thinking deeply about our food sources.  We can't always provide our own in this way, but a focus on what we CAN do is worthwhile.

Butterhead and Red Fire lettuce from my garden

Pest control

Gardening Assistant

Sue, Ohio

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Part 5: E.R. Trip #2 - How I earned my title of "Patient"

Part 5:  E.R. Trip # 2 - A Second Glimpse into the Abyss

"Personally, I am grateful for a crisis.  The crisis will give us the possibility to learn something if we are willing....if the heart opens up enough to tell the mind something", Gunther Hauk, Biodynamic Beekeeper featured in "Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us".

"Crisis", from 'krisis':  turning point in a disease, as used by Hippocrates.

I had returned home (early Friday evening) and was reasonably comfortable, and VERY happy to be out of the hospital but still quite perplexed by my whole ordeal.  I was trying to get some food down, but was very tentative about putting anything down my esophagus as I could feel discomfort upon swallowing, although nothing like the massive chest pains I had had initially on Thursday.

Into the evening I noticed the worsening of my hives, with a huge swelling on the bottom of one of my feet, so large that I couldn't walk correctly.  Rashes, welts and lumps were erupting all over.

At my husband's urging (insistence), I called my doctor's office and had the good fortune of finding out that my own doctor was on call that evening.  She returned my call quickly and we discussed how much Benadryl (double doses) I could take and I followed her recommendations.  She noted she would be there for "Sick Bay" (early office hours) on Monday morning and I could slip in to see her then, that she might need to run me through a course of steroids.  Ok, all good.

Things seem to be ok into the next day and I am beginning to rest although I know I am stressing about the ordeal and still not knowing exactly what is wrong with me.  I am taking it very easy though and trying to eat a bit here and there.  My hives are nearly all gone.

In the evening, I decide to have a sweet potato (this would end up being really ironic), and put one in the microwave and go back to sit down.  As I get up to go and get it from the microwave, I start breathing rapidly and shallowly and am this shortness of breath?  I catch myself on the kitchen counter as my ears start plugging and ringing, my head feels like it is swollen up and my hands start tingling.

I make it back to the couch and look at my husband and say 'I'm in trouble'.  I barely hit the couch before I am passing out, in and out of consciousness, and hear my husband yell for my son, as he is dialing 9-1-1.  He slaps me on the face (he told me he did, I have no memory of it) and tells me to stay with him and I remember looking at him and saying 'ok'....and then mouthing "I Love You".  (Once again I get this feeling that maybe, just maybe this is the end of this life-time for me.  I decide that is b.s. and feel my "Pennsylvania Dutch" stubborn streak kick in....thank you, Grandma).

My husband has the foresight to send my son down to the end of the driveway to flag the squad---we live out in the country and have a very long drive----and by now my hands are nearly completely numb and the tingling is moving up my arms, which I am trying to tell him saying "hands", "hands". 

The EMTs come into the house and I hear him telling them about our trip to the hospital already and bringing them up to speed.  They put a B.P. cuff on my right arm and just about then I completely lose the use of my arms and my hands cramp up claws. (My husband tried to pry my right hand open a bit and could not even budge it).  I am saying 'oh my gawd, my hands, my hands, look at my hands!!'. 

The BP cuff is just killing my right arm and I beg them to take it off.  They switch it to the left arm and I am horrified as I read the monitor which notes my BP as 70 over 30!!!

I hear one of the EMTs say something about dehydration and I have water sitting there on the table and ask for it and can now use my left hand enough with his help to down the few ounces that are in there.  Almost immediately, my hands begin to uncramp and the tingling begins to subside.  They also took my blood sugar as my husband said I hadn't had much to eat for the last couple of days and we were all surprised to see it was over 130. 

They decide to transport me and bring the gurney into our family room.

Once I am loaded into the back of the ambulance, the EMT to my left starts an I.V. port as they are taking down my name and information.  I'll always remember this guy, 'Cunningham' read the name on his shirt, as when they were taking my age down, he said "you are, uh, forty-what?".  Now later on, I thought that maybe I had given them the year of my birth and that this was a reflection on his poor math skills, but I am choosing to remember it as his guess at my age....  :-)

Cunningham starts to hook up the saline solution and another EMT, the driver, comes into the vehicle from the side and behind me to cut through the center console.  Why he came in that way and not the driver's door, I do not know, but when he did, he tripped over the I.V. line which ripped the hub out of my arm and my blood was strafing the inside of the ambulance and Cunningham, straight out of a B-horror movie.  I turned to the general direction of my husband who was by now seated in the passenger side of the front and said 'Honey, I don't want to go'.

He was having none of it, and said quickly, 'we are going'.

When we arrived at the hospital, the EMTs had already had several printouts of my heart rate (all normal), and I was feeling weak, but ok.  No I.V. had been hooked up....they gave up on that. 

I was taken to a different room in the E.R this with a view....a view of the central hub, or nurses'/doctors' station.  Kelly was not on this night (it's not a good thing when you start learning these folks' names), and we were assigned another nurse who instantly pissed off my husband when he asked the tech to have my family wait in the waiting room while they got a gown on me.  (I refrained from pointing out to him that really, my husband has seen me naked before, but that he ---the male nurse---has NOT, maybe HE should go wait in the waiting room).  I could see the look on my husband's I strive not to elicit and I sent up a silent prayer that nobody else gets in his way between here and the waiting room.  (Later I found out from my son that my husband had been growling at the aide who offered to escort them to the waiting room, and that my son had worked to calm him down a bit.)

For way longer than it took to get a gown on me, they kept my husband and son out of the room and finally the nurse said they could come back in.  Basic info and vitals were taken.  I was glad to see a much higher B.P.

I asked them not to put any tape on me or even their sheets/blankets as I wasn't sure what my issue had been with the hives before.  Even as I said this, I looked down at my wrists and could see hives, literally, before my very eyes rising up on my inner arms.  I pointed it out to the nurse.

This nurse had the bed-side manner of a dried piece of cardboard, but we actually ended up doing ok with him, after a time; he did eventually lighten up a bit.

The E.R. doc came in to see me....the very same doc that had seen me less than 48 hours prior.  He proceeded to ask me the very same questions about my medical  history that he had asked me before....but hey, I do know they have their system. 

We explain what happened and proceed to go into detail about the symptoms and that one of the EMTs had said something about dehydration.  He steps out of the room (and see now I can see everything the nurses and aides and docs are doing when they leave the room as I have a straight view of the hub area) and goes to a computer, so I presume he is pulling up info about my stay in the hospital, which I have summarized for him.

A tech comes in to draw blood (my vampire friend from Africa); I call him by name and we chat and I realize as he is drawing blood that he isn't so happy about my veins.  I was all the rage with the vampires when I was in the hospital.....they kept saying how great my veins are and how they wished all their patients had such good he can hardly find one that is up enough to meet his standards.  Hmmm.....

After a time, a tech comes in and says she is here to take me for.........wait for it..... A CHEST X-RAY!!!!   I look over at my husband who has the 'huh?' look on his face too and I say, "uh, why am I getting a chest x-ray?"  She says, "oh, you don't want one?".  I said, "well, could I just find out why I need one?" 

So she goes to chat with the doc, remember I can watch all this, and I observe the dialog between them...she comes back with a sheet of paper and says, "here, sign off here that you refused the chest x-ray".  Okay at this point, I think I am tripping and in some crazy-ass movie with a playwright that needs to be fired.  You just canNOT make this sh*t up....medics tripping over I.V. lines and so on.

I say, "well, I DIDN'T refuse it; I just want to know WHY I need it".  She goes over and gets the doc who comes in and explains to me that he wants to run all the cardiac protocol again so they can rule out heart attack.  WHAT???  I said, ok, I just had a stress test, passed it per the cardiologist, all heart blood enzymes were good, EKG is good, right?  Yes, right.  Ok then, I don't think it's my heart, do you?  He refuses to answer no matter how many times I ask him for his professional opinion, merely repeated the 'party line' of, well, we have protocols.  I again saw, it isn't my heart and I don't wish to repeat the cardiac tests.

He comes back a bit later to say that the heart enzymes were slightly elevated on the blood test they just took, but he'll take another blood sample and retest.  He does also note that my potassium was very low, so orders a drink for me to correct that and says that could affect the original blood test.

Ok, so we are in a holding pattern here. 

Meanwhile, another patient has been brought in next to me....our room is just divided by a curtain and we can hear everything going on over there.  He has chest pains and our nurse would end up being pretty much completely focused on him for the remaining 5 hours that we would be well he should have been.

Our nurse did come back in and check my vitals again and I showed him again, my hives, which were now all over the backs of my legs, my torso, erupting on my face, just about everywhere.  I asked him if he had ever seen anything like that before and he said, yes, that he has seen it on himself and that he is deadly allergic to aspirin and had had such a bad reaction to it that the E.R. staff was ready to intubate him and told him that if he ever has an aspirin product again, he likely would not survive that....Captain Cardboard shows a glimmer of personality at this point.

Okay, I am glad to know I have someone that understands I am having a reaction, but also now am a bit freaked out.  I work on my deep breathing and relaxation visualization as I peek at my b.p. numbers and see they are at stroke levels:  155/98.  (In my summary of all of my adventures, I'm going to get more into b.p. and the body's agenda.....I really became aware of some surprising things).

Captain Cardboard gets me on some antihistamines after checking with the doc and hurries back to attend to the chest pain patient.

My 2nd blood test ends up being ok, cardiac enzyme-wise, the doc comes back in (we've now been there over 4 hours), and says that it may well have been dehydration so decides to then start a saline drip, which they set up to go very, very slowly.  I ask if I can have some water, which they do give me and I'm getting that down, but it's ice water and I'm freezing as I don't want any of their blankets on my son takes off his hoodie and gallantly lets me cover my hive-ridden (and unshaven....see 2nd post in this series about personal hygiene/grooming) legs with it.  I have my tee-shirt draped over my arms (it's the nastiest shirt I own...stained with holes in it....see above mentioned's since been turned into cleaning rags).

So, as we are waiting for the slowest drip I.V. in the world to get into my body, we can't help but hear what is happening next to us and to focus on it.  In my philosophical moments, I wonder if exposure to this patient is part of why I have gone through this ordeal, because it was quite sobering.

This man, complaining of chest pains, was scheduled to have a double-bypass at a major university teaching hospital in about two weeks---his medical record ran the gamut of so much that we fear:  high blood pressure, diabetes, a bout with prostate cancer, surgery on his testicles (so much for privacy laws....we heard it all), high cholesterol, he had been a smoker, but quit two weeks was a mess.

They could NOT manage his chest pain.  They would go in and have him rate his pain (most times between 5-8 on a scale of 10), give him pain meds and then check with him in a bit.  It would cycle down to a 2 or 3 and then in about 20 minutes we'd hear him tell his wife, 'chest pain is back'.  She'd call the nurse and it would start all over again.

They decided they would transport him to the hospital where he was going to receive the surgery (approximately an hour away), and presumably set about making those arrangements.

Except time just went on, and on, and on.

At one point, I heard the pain come back to him yet again and the call light was put on, which an aide answered.  I heard her tell him that she would go check and see what the doctor wanted him to have.

Not only could I SEE what was going on in the hub, I could also HEAR most of the conversations in there and I heard the aide talk to the nurse in the station who said "well do they know that he is going to be transported to another hospital?!?!".  Oh......My......God.    I wanted to scream "......" at them, well, I will spare you what I wanted to scream---where is Shirley MacClaine from Terms of Endearment when you need her!?... but I mostly just wanted them to take care of this poor guy and not kill him before they could get him to a more competent facility.

I thought happy thoughts about him.....intently.

I decided my situation was not bad.....not bad at all.  If I had to wait another 8 hours for the I.V. bag, I still would be going home.  If I had hives, they could be controlled with Benadryl or steroids.  If I had to do unnecessary testing and learn some lessons the hard way, well then still, I would live to fight another day.  The best case scenario for this guy was a trip to a cardiac surgical unit where a massively invasive procedure awaited him and a long, long road of recovery.

I had at least learned most of my lifestyle lessons before ending up at the mercy of painkillers on a gurney in a small town E.R.  I quit smoking & alcohol consumption over 20 years ago, remained active, had logged nearly two years on a plant-based diet, total cholesterol 140, average B.P. (when not faced with extreme stress) 112/78 and so on.  I was over-whelmed with gratitude for my good fortune and for my inquisitive mind that had sent me on my current path.

Since it became apparent that I was going to be there for awhile (the liquid in my I.V. bag had only decreased by about an inch), my husband opted to run my son home, so he could get some sleep.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, patient 'Zero' has been admitted.  He ended up being taken to my old room....a lovely room, with a nice happy mural of a pastoral setting hand-painted on the walls and no view of the nurses' hub....I missed that room.  Anyway, I hear this guy being brought in and basic information taken.  He's so loud, I can hear the intimate details.  Our nurse has been assigned to him as well (guess they figured I'm just in for a drink of water, since I've 'refused' all the good tests, so he can handle it). 

This guy is very crass and LOUD, did I mention loud?,  and announces that he 'can't take a piss'.  Nothing comes out and it hurts and can they put a catheter in him or something and if they do will all the piss drain out of him.  I'm shaking my head thinking that my husband has left before the best part of the movie came on.  The nurse leaves his room briefly after telling him that yes, they are going to take care of it and he's going to get some meds ordered for him. 

About 20 seconds goes by and I hear this huge CRASH and banging and yelling and I know it is coming from Zero.  (Zero as in zero patience, zero tolerance for pain and zero class whatsoever).

A nurse goes scurrying down the hall and I hear her say, 'did you just kick something?'.  Zero says 'no'.  She says, 'are you sure because I heard some clanging in here?'.  "Nope, I didn't kick anything, I can't piss", Zero eloquently replies.

I can hear the nurse uprighting something in the room and she again says,  "are you certain you didn't throw something or kick something?".  Zero finally fesses up and says, "yeah, I kicked that table over there".  The nurse asks him to please not kick anything, this is their property and they don't want it damaged and tells him that medication is on the way.

About 10 or 15 minutes later after I finally flag a nurse's aide down (I realize after my husband has left that I don't have a call button in my room) to unhook my various leads so I can go accomplish on my own what Zero is unable to, I pass by his room and can't help myself and sneak a peak in Zero's room ....he is OUT COLD.  I'm thinking they gave him the upper end dosage of something....or maybe Captain Cardboard has nailed him with a tranquilizer dart to the neck....can't say I blame them.

Time slowly passes, husband returns, doc checks back in the room and is satisfied with something on his chart that he is reading and says that I can go home, I don't even need to finish the I.V. bag.  A nurse is with him to go over my after-care instructions and to sign off saying I've been instructed on several things that I am not being given including the management and use of an epi pen.  I have the deer-in-the-headlights look and she realizes about half way through that they have the wrong print-out for me....goes back and tells the doc, who prints out something else and we start again.

Seems there isn't really a dismissal sheet for:  Patient needs FOOD and WATER.  Which is about what all this boils down to. 

I was also advised upon leaving to be sure and think about anything different at home that I might have, like new soap or new shampoo, new detergent....told that I needed to go through everything at home that might be new and really think about that. Of course, color me crazy, but I'm thinking the fact that I didn't have any hives until AFTER I came into the hospital should go into that analysis.

I'll summarize in my next entry where I'm also going to attempt to delineate the many lessons learned, but we may never know exactly what caused my original pain.  My husband and I have a working theory though.....probably it was the acidic lemon juice in the bottom of my bottle that I had just chugged and immediately bent over to hook up the farm implement to the tractor.  Possibly there had been a tear or some damage in the esophagus from either bushhogging over rough terrain or maybe I had something already damaged, who knows.  We think the acid from the lemon may have simply eaten through some soft tissues there causing the excruciating pain I experienced.

My hesitation to ingest anything and the hospital not ensuring I had adequate fluid intact contributed to the event leading to my 2nd transport.  At this point, both my husband and I were on edge and not understanding what might be wrong, hit the panic switch.  Err on the side of safety I guess, although one could certainly make the argument that the hospital and the E.R. are not necessarily safe places to be.

Interestingly and ironically enough, as I researched a few things during my recovery period, I discovered that sweet potatoes (which I was craving and was the ONLY thing I wanted, followed by bananas, which both I and the hospital were out of), are some of the best sources of potassium!  My dangerously low levels of potassium can cause tingling and the cramping I experienced in my hands/arms.

As for the hives, I am still working on that mystery, which I do have some ideas about and will cover in more detail in the next post.  My father, an oral surgeon, mentioned angioedema which I wasn't familiar with and told me he has had that before and that there may be a genetic component; he never did figure out triggers for his.

It's all rather anti-climatic in the end, but frankly, I'm very thankful for a lack of drama at this point....boring and simple can be quite good.

To be Wrapped Up: Next:  Recovery, Follow-Up and Lessons....oh, the Lessons.
Healthy Snack 

Scott Jurek, Ultramarathoner, vegan and now author "Eat and Run", can't wait to read it, has an interesting recipe for some snack bars.  He calls them "Chocolate and Adzuki Bean Bars" and you can read a great interview with Scott and find the recipe here:,7120,s6-242-303--14320-F,00.html

I am dissecting nutrition and what it takes to be truly fueled and turning to what the successful vegan athletes do, seems to be a good idea.  I decided to give Scott's recipe a try.

I started low-tech with a potato masher to blend up the beans and banana  I used three different kinds of beans, not just the adzuki as that is what I happened to have handy.  I did move up to a mixer, but an immersion hand-held model did the job fine.

When I first tried these, I didn't think I liked them much, but they are really growing on me...I mean seriously growing on me.  I have some ideas on playing with Scott's recipe.  I would like to power them up even more by replacing some of the flour with hemp powder.  Raw sunflower seeds could be added as well and would give it a little crunch.  I think a 'blonde' version of them would be good too and instead of the cacao powder I will try some cinnamon and other spices and maybe add some apples for part of the beans.  The possibilities are endless.  I especially love that there are beans in the recipe as I am determined to get those into my diet daily.  It's a great snack and one that I will be making quite frequently. 

It would be nice to slice these bars up and have at the ready in the case you have to go to the hospital where they may or may not feed you.  ;-)

NOTE:  I didn't have the dried fruit that Scott uses in his recipe, but that would give it a bit more sweetness.  I also didn't use the maple syrup, but did use a bit of agave.  I'd like to replace that with dates.

Sue, feeling pretty damn good these days, in Ohio

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Part 4: A day at the Hospital

Part 4:  The hospital in daylight....still scary...

.....Going to the doctor for an illness is like digging a well when you are thirsty.  That is not to say that it won't do some good, but.....  Ancient Chinese Proverb paraphrased.

I was startled awake (is there any other way in the hospital?)  as my new nurse "Lola" came in to meet me and to quickly tell me that the cardiologist was in on early rounds today and will be in to see me in a moment.  Before she finishes that sentence, he is in the room and extending his hand in introduction.

I'm blinking myself awake as he asks me a few questions about my symptoms, runs through the lab work already performed and says that, they can't 100% rule out a cardiac event, and given my age (57) and that I've never had a stress test, he'd like me to take one, do I think I'll have any problem moving on a treadmill.

I explain that I lead a very active life, have 5 horses, live on a farm,, I don't anticipate any problems.  He quickly vanishes saying he will check with me post-stress-test to go over my results.

Lola soon comes back in and with her is a wonderful aide by the name of Vi.  Vi looks a little bit street-wise and is sporting a doorag of sorts on her head....(I found out she had lost her hair due to stress.  We shared an intimate conversation about that later on).  I would grow to love the vernacular...'good people'.

I expressed my concerns about my esophagus to Lola early in our conversations, even as everyone involved with my care continued to plummet head-first into post-cardiac-event care.  You know, I do understand that it really doesn't matter much what your stomach is doing if you have heart failure, but up to this point, DESPITE all the trauma, lack of food, sleep-deprivation, lack of fluids and exposure to a pretty constant river of stress, ALL of my cardiac indicators were 100% healthy.

Hello?  Anyone home???

I asked about food.  Nope....better not eat any food, because the docs would have a fit down there at the stress test lab and my nurse advised me to only have a very few sips of water, and to do that when she wasn't looking.   I was told that my personal doc would be by to see me, but that she doesn't do rounds until later and not to expect her any time soon, giggle.  (I didn't think that was all that funny, but was glad my doc was coming in).  {It's about 7 a.m. at this point, a full 6 hours before I would finally get my stress test}.

Vi came in to help me clean up a bit.  This woman needs to be immediately nominated for saint-hood.  Where is the form? I will personally sign off on it.  She brought some warmed cloths that are like over-sized wipes and proceeded to loosen the back of my gown and wipe down my back, on which she then sprinkled some powder.  Heaven and without a doubt the highlight of my stay.

I truly think if they flipped the hierarchy in the hospital and put the aides at the top, followed by nurses, then let the doctors and administrators dook it out for the next slot, we might see a change in health care...FOR THE GOOD.  The aides are the front line, followed closely by the nurses and know more about what is going on with the patient than the ivory-tower inhabitants.  Vi is the only one who seemed to understand that I needed something to eat and drink.

I had slept in my coveted work-out knickers and I tell you, of all the things I was so glad I had with me, 2nd only to my cell phone and maybe my chap-stick, were those shorts.  A tech from the stress lab had come down to go over some things with me on how the procedure with the stress test would go and had said I could slip into my jeans or just do the test in my gown.  I WAS SO GLAD I HAD THOSE SHORTS ON!!!

Now in between times here, several staff had come in and out and there was a huge mix-up over the type of stress test I was going to get.  Some staff members had told me I would be getting just a stationary echo right there in the room, in fact at one point, a staff member came in (she was trying to get me food, bless her), because my test was listed as done!  When I told her the tech from the Stress Lab had been in to tell me the test wouldn't be until at least noon, she just couldn't figure that out at all and asked me then why was it listed as already done!!!???  Uh....I don't know...could it be because you all clearly have a communication problem?!?!?!  My first guess.

This went on back and forth several times until finally I called my nurse and said, look, my constitution is such that if I don't get something to eat, I will likely pass out on that treadmill; can I PLEASE have something light, especially since you guys don't seem to be in complete agreement about what test I am going to get anyway.

So I had a little bit of fruit (honestly, the serving sizes were just positively Lilliputian!) and some cardboard-esque oatmeal along with a few precious sips of water.   I was on a 'cardiac-diet' so I would be allowed, at some point to order from the menu any of the items with a heart next to them.  A quick glance had me in complete disagreement with the creator of the menu on what constitutes 'heart-healthy', but I did see a few possibilities---I'd need to ask some questions.

Finally, I get wheeled down to the stress-test lab.

The procedure is explained to me in detail with emphasis on the fact that following the attainment of the target heart-rate on the treadmill, I would have to QUICKLY zip over to the gurney and follow closely the instructions of the tech...we only have seconds to get this done, so we can get an adequate picture of how the heart is functioning at high stress.

I was instructed on how I would have to lie on the gurney and told that I would have to blow out all the air in my lungs so they could get a good view of the heart. 

As I was being fitted with more leads and monitors, I saw the skin on my torso and pointed out to the tech the welts that were coming up on me and how itchy they were.  She noted them as well, but we had a job to do, so we focused on that.

The treadmill part was pretty straight forward....a fairly high incline that was gradually increased with escalating speed as well.  We could all monitor my heart-rate and see how far I had to go to reach my target rate: 138. 

We kept going and going and going and every minute or so the speed and incline would ramp up and we couldn't get my heart-rate up high enough.  Finally, another tech came into the room to see what was taking so long and the two of them started betting on how many more levels they were going to have to up it.  They kept asking me to rate the exertion level I was experiencing as noted by a scale on the wall, wanting it to be 'fairly difficult' which we hadn't reached yet. 

The one tech to my left made the comment "this is how fit she is".  I will always treasure that moment, because in the midst of all this craziness, I really wanted something to hang onto about my health!  Two or three more levels and we finally hit the mark, which then has to maintained for a minute or so.   I moved quickly to the gurney and this was the hardest part....having to blow out ALL the air in my lungs and hold that state of emptiness for a moment while the tech snapped pictures on the echo machine.  I had to do that several times, and the lungs are screaming for air, so it was tough.

Back to the room and my doctor had already been there and was looking for me, so she quickly comes in.  I bring her up to speed and THANK GOD, SOMEONE FINALLY HEARS ME THAT I THINK THIS IS MY ESOPHAGUS, not my freaking heart!!!

She wants to wait on test results from the stress test to be sure, but thinks, yes, probably something esophageal or maybe gall bladder, which she thinks about for a second, remembers I am vegan and quickly rules out as 'highly unlikely'.  (We share a brief discussion about vegan diets and I tell her that I had tried to get the E.R. staff NOT to tell her I had been admitted with chest pains because I knew she wasn't all that impressed with my vegan diet, and it would just be awful to have a heart attack on this which she responded "well, it's just a really hard diet".)

While we are talking, my symptoms return, although not as severe and she is able to see them first hand.  She orders a 'cocktail',  to numb the esophagus to see if that will turn off my symptoms which it should do if it is esophageal (it didn't), so at this point, we're still a bit perplexed.  We end up deciding to go on a course of anti-acid meds at high strength for 6 weeks to see if the condition heals.  If there is no improvement in a week, I'm to call her, otherwise she'll see me in 6 weeks.  An option is to do a scope, but she says most conditions will heal on their own with the anti-acid meds and that would likely be the course we would take after the scope anyway, so, I pick door number 2:  no scope.

I note the itching on my skin, which is now worse and she offers me a Benadryl, which I decline.  At this point, I want as far away from any medication or medical personnel as I can get.....not really thinking clearly.

I still have to wait for the cardiologist, so I call food services to order some food.  I tell the very nice food service person that I am vegan and ask if they have some fresh fruits and vegetables.  Yes, they do.  What kinds do you have?  We have all of them.  I had to press to finally get her to tell me what they have....hell, they didn't even have a banana, so no they don't have all of them, but I am trying to be good.  I ask if any of her bagels don't have egg in them and she says she thinks they all have egg in them.  I ask if she can check on that, and she says, she thinks they all have egg in them.  I ask, can she please check the label for me?    She says she will and later calls me to tell me that the Honey-Whole Wheat ones don't and the Blueberry ones don't---I decide not to go into the honey aspect and instead just thank her and ask for a blueberry one.  This arrives quickly, a decent platter of mostly cherry tomatoes (which at this point, I don't want anything even remotely acidic, so pass on), some broccoli florets and some grapes.  I tentatively nibble. 

The head of the food service department comes in my room to tell me about some veggie burgers they have (which I thought was really great of her to do).  She can't remember what they are called and I offer:  Morningstar?  YES!  That's it.  Now, I've never had a pre-packed veggie burger, but I tell her I think there are probably some ingredients in there I shouldn't have.  She's raving about them and runs off to check the label...atta-girl.  I've got her onto the labels now.  She calls later to tell me they have egg whites in them and I again thank her profusely for checking.

I so badly want to launch into something about wouldn't you think there would be a VEGAN food section for patients in the CARDIAC wing, but I really don't have the strength at this point.

My husband arrives in time for the cardiologist to zip into the room and inform me that my cardiac stress test is perfectly normal and that he thinks it is probably an esophageal problem.  I thank him and tell him that I hope I never see him again, to which he emits what I am sure is a rare laugh.

We start packing......and then I look at my foot....and see a welt the size (and relative shape) of Nebraska on it, I look in the mirror, my lips look like Angelina Jolie's, my eyes are swollen and I am breaking out in hives all over.

Lola arrives with a wheelchair for my grand exit and I show her my many welts and she says I should take Benadryl when I get home, do I have some?  By now, I'm really just very concerned, as I have never swollen up like this and am wondering, what is next.  My husband decides to leave me there while the nurse gets me a Benadryl and to go pick up my anti-acid meds and more Benadryl.  They both comment that I 'seem a little nervous'.  I'm thinking, yeah, you'd be nervous too.  She does say that my doctor has been made aware of the increase in this allergic reaction and for me to call her office on Monday.

We are looking at latex rubber that might have been on the bottom of the footies they put on me and I'm thinking maybe the tape used to hold I.V.'s and cotton balls from blood being drawn, etc. as potential sources of an allergic reaction....just trying to figure it out.  I'm wondering if it was the vast amounts of nitro or maybe just the detergent on the sheets....what is causing all of this?

As I am examining the huge lumps on the tops of my feet, I happen to press on the fatty part of my big toe...the skin stays positively flat.  I press again and say, "look at that....I might be a bit dehydrated".  I reach for the cup to take a few sips of water, but I'm afraid maybe there is latex in the straw or something in the straw....just turning positively hive-paranoid at this point.
The hives start to go down a bit and we decide to get outta Dodge.   I walk out with my husband on my own power passing on the wheel-chair.

All is well, right?

Not really.

To be continued:  E.R. Trip #2....Are you freaking kidding me?

Healthy Lunch

I've noticed that I tend to get into habits about what I eat.  This, of course, can be a very good thing as it helps ensure I'm going to intake greens every day, fruits and so on, but as I continue to learn more about MICROnutrition, I realize the importance of adding a variety of grains, legumes and veggies to sort of 'cover our nutritional bases'. 

So, normally, in the lunch below, I might have say one kind of rice, short-grained brown is my favorite and one type of bean, black beans usually.  I'm expanding this healthy rut to encompass more.

Multi-Faceted Salad
On top of field greens, I have a combination of brown rice, black rice and red quinoa, as well as a mix of beans.  Quinoa is a power-house of a food:  providing protein, iron, B1, B2, folate, and other minerals.  I'll be adding it into my diet more regularly now.

Add a dash of tamari and a few chopped scallions and you have a nice little lunch.  In my efforts to add savory to my sweet and sweet to my savory, I chopped up a medjool date and added it as well.  A sprinkle of nutritional yeast (Bob's Red Mill, B-12 added) takes care of that important nutrient.

Multi-Faceted Salad
Sue, on the healing path, in Ohio