Life as a health care worker has certain cyclical seasons. During the summers there is the hint of a lull. Spring Break weeks are similarly quiet. People don’t elect to have procedures when the clouds part and the sun bakes the earth. January is another story. The winter is cruel in its disregard concerning whether humans elect to go to the hospital, or not. We are, as a country, in the midst of a flu epidemic and there isn’t any way around it. Granted, I’m a career hospitality staffer, but my clinical knowledge is limited. I try during the lean seasons, the times when we face community wide illness, to try to build bridges between clinical care and the work of culinary professionals like myself. The flu means all hands on deck, and that means even basement dwelling Milton’s like me have new responsibilities to take on.
I chose a career in food service with the vague notion that I could help people by doing self-perpetuating work. Life in kitchens is like Groundhog Day. You return day after day, year after year and produce the same foods each day. Whether a culinary lifer plies their trade in a restaurant, or in an institutional setting, it’s a fact that the food must be consistently right in every way. Preparation, quality, service. These never vary when it comes to food that is served repeatedly. During culinary school I harbored the even more vague notion that I’d one day go to the institutional end of cooking. The proverbial dark side of the industry. What I’ve found is that working in health care food service has been rewarding and a daily challenge. Allergies, post-surgical and disease-tailored diets, aged related food issues. These are all daily considerations. When a public health crisis such as the flu arises, I am reminded that I can not only work with food, but on behalf of people. Today, for instance, we as nutrition staffers took baskets of food to all three shifts of associates at the hospital. I wondered beforehand if the beleaguered associates would really even accept fresh fruit and snacks, or just throw the stuff at us and ask for chocolate. What we heard was “thank you” and got some weary smiles. Weary, because the e.r. was full and everybody in the hospital has been covering for sick co-workers. When asked why we were out delivering food, we’d reply “Oh, you know. High patient census. Thanks for all that you do.” Then we’d leave and let them get on with the work. Returning to restock the snacks, most of the original baskets had been emptied. I can’t draw blood, or administer medication. What I’m able to do is make health care a little better through the gifts God has given me and the training I never thought I’d use in this way. The flu season will pass, but I’ll keep electing to go to the hospital each day.
Mostly Teachable Episode 10 Tastes Like Chicken
Thanks for reading and listening to Mostly Teachable. This week’s podcast is a nugget of joy about the end of the world through health care, the end of Camelot with Tom and Katie, and (hopefully) the end of people eating strangers. Have a great weekend, and have a peaceful and joyous whatever it is that you do!
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It started with a headache. Most of life’s misadventures start with a headache. Caesar crossed the Rubicon, not as an act of insurrection, but merely because the Gaul’s were out of Excedrin. The Magna Carta was signed at Runnymede on the back of plans for a discount drug store. I may do something great, like start a Miss Adventure pageant, but first I’ve got to get over the migraines. Three months of whomping headaches. Whomping. That ancient word for a headache that words can’t convey. My family doctor, baffled, called in the specialist. The referral to the specialist always starts with “Do you know my colleague Dr. X? Oh, well…he’s very good.” Very good. Yet another euphemism for misadventure.
The general practitioner and the specialist inhabit different worlds. Going to the G.P. is a lovely time. The offices seem to always have waterfalls and floral arrangements. The magazines are carefully screened to make the two-hour wait all the more pleasant. I’m friends with the harpist in the corner (“Having a good day Nancy?”). The specialist needs none of the trappings of overpriced luxury health care. His office is in a corner of town that we don’t talk about. The receptionist always seems unreasonably angry, possibly because she can’t get a referral for her headaches. She walks me down a green mile corridor into the fluorescent furnace and I wait. The Specialist enters, assesses me from the doorway and looks dolefully at my chart. “Hmm…Do you know my colleague Dr. Y? Oh, well…she’s very good.” With that I am referred to another specialist. This time in a phone booth, 28 miles outside of the city limits. I shiver while waiting for the specialist to see me. Bored Holstein’s stare through the glass and stop chewing their cud. “Headache? We know a specialist.”