Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An unbelievable lunch conversation

Ever since I started working at the hospital in SP almost three months ago, I have been going down to hospital canteen for lunch with my fellow psychologist colleagues. No, I can't eat anything there, and the odd day that I do decide to eat something (like a clear broth), I have been punished bitterly - (imagine trying not to throw up clear broth for 8 hours...., no idea what it is about the broth they use, actually I do, might be the histamine in it that I know am intolerant to, I sometimes have clear broth (no yeast = no histamine) at home that doesn't bother me that much).

But I have found some green tea that I can buy at the canteen (horribly expensive - € 0.80), but it makes me feel normal when I get to join in on lunch time chit-chat.

Usually we share a table with some of our attendings and residents, whoever is on duty. I have been running around with my waist pack and feeding tube since June now, none of the docs so far have ever asked why. But for the past two weeks some nasty comments have started like i.e. "You only have tea, are you sick?" or "Just soup???". I even once answered that I have a screwed-up GI-tract, but no further questions were asked.

Today - Dr. R. looked at me and said "Do all psychologists eat that little?" Not even listening to my standard answer, but instead keeping on joking "did you get sick before you ate our food here or afterwards"....

I exchanged some nasty looks with our psychology intern and kept on enjoying my tea. Dr. R. and some other docs left, leaving just me, my boss, and Dr. T. who had been one of the previous commenters. He started commenting again on my tea drinking behaviour, when I decided I had had enough.
"I can't eat".
"Do you have an eating disorder?"
Big sigh.... did I say I don't want to eat? no.....
"No, I have a screwed up GI tract, and I have a feeding tube in my jejunum that I am fed through over 23 hours a day."
I should maybe add at this point that this was a neurology attending I was talking to, he is used to having stroke patients with all kinds of feeding tubes on his ward.....
"What do you have?"
"I have gastroparesis, exocrine pancreas insufficiency, and protein malabsorption."
"What's that?"
Am I really talking to a doctor??????
"Well my stomach won't empty, and my pancreas doesn't produce enough enzymes."
"And how are you fed - subcutaneously?"
Insert big, big questions marks on my side here..... shouldn't a neurologist know a bit more about feeding tubes when he orders NGs and PEGs for his patients all the time????
"No, my tube is in my jejunum."
"And the food you are getting, can you buy that pre-made?"
Some more questions marks on my side - bottles and bags with tube feeding formulas attached to his patients on IV poles are a very common sight....
"Isn't it difficult to not eat?"
"Well, I prefer it over the alternative - dying."
At that point my boss started being more active in our conversation, asking him if he thought as well that I am doing an incredible job with all of my handicaps....

I am so glad I finally got to tell someone. I really don't like it when people assume that I have an eating disorder just because I am not eating and still a bit on the slim side (but definitely not ill looking anymore). I much rather prefer to be asked and to be able to explain than to be judged just on my behaviours.

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