A word on nutrition

I recently found an old memento from my early days in the hospital last year. Less than a week after massive spinal surgery, I was completely immobile, laying in bed and the nurse brought me my lunch tray. On it was this:

"Health" shake

I was too weak to take a deep enough breath to laugh, yet I couldn’t help but smile, cringe and awkwardly chuckle to myself. “This? Am I really meant to drink THIS?” I know picking on hospital food is an easy target as no one expects it to be tasty, and to be totally fair, most of the actual food was not as bad as I expected. There were plenty of somewhat healthy options and they gave me a choice of what to eat instead of just arbitrarily shoving microwave hamburgers and canned peaches in my face. But this was surprising to me, especially given the circumstances.


Health Shake 2

Once I read the ingredient list, I couldn’t help but wonder….Aren’t I in a hospital, where I’m meant to get better? Shouldn’t I be avoiding a bunch of chemicals and synthetic additives? Isn’t it counterintuitive to ingest a bunch of processed artificialness when I’m in such a volatile state and my body only needs what’s essential and healthy? And that’s when I had an epiphanic moment and the reason why I asked my mom not to throw this carton away. I wanted to hang onto it because I knew this moment now would come and I could look back at the sardonic tragedy of this glimpse into our healthcare system.

It also seemed strangely comedic that I was being given no less than five different laxatives and medicines to help move things through my body (due to the fact that I was laying in bed for ten days) yet the food I was being served contained probably a quarter of the amount of daily fiber that a normal person would need. Why not ease up on the laxatives and feed me some extra broccoli or kale? Wouldn’t a fruit smoothie replace the need for all that medicine, not to mention that it would taste a lot better than this “fortified” strangeness?

I can laugh about this now because these days, I have the fortune of being able to eat a healthy diet of my choosing, but the reality of this paradox in our healthcare system still saddens me. We make all these gains, research and develop incredible technologies that improve the health of many, yet amidst this vast knowledge, hospitals are still serving synthetic chocolate milkshakes with “health” on the front, that look like they’re straight out of the 60’s?!

My story on the Huffington Post

I’m frequently overwhelmed with the amount of information that we have access to these days. Countless websites, social media sources, plus 1s, “likes”, reviews, surveys, posts, tweets, tags, and beyond. But there are moments, like now, when I feel so lucky to live in a time with so much connectivity and communication with others around the world. I was recently contacted by another blogger Arthur (link to his blog) who has written a book and deals with his own recovery and medical challenges. After a few back and forth emails sharing our respective stories, he mentioned the chance of getting our frustrations with the US medical system out to mass media. Thanks to his contact at the Huffington Post, they wrote an article about the shortcomings of healthcare and sited my story and his in the article.


I am just one of thousands – if not millions – of Americans who feel abandoned and shortchanged by the inadequacies of profit based insurance companies that run healthcare in the US. I would be honored if you can read the article and share with your respective communities. Thank you in advance, and to Arthur in particular.

The Infuriating Case of SCI Semantics

Hospital staff person – “I’ve heard about a lot of quads doing that. Now are you a quadriplegic or a paraplegic?”

Me – “Neither! I hate classifications like that! I’m a nothingplegic because I’m just someone who had a bad accident, but is on his way to recovery and hate being categorized or classified with this bullshit terminology!”

Ok so that’s not exactly how I responded to the good-intentioned hospital worker who was talking to me about my life post-rehab, but that’s exactly what I wanted to say. Maybe I’m oversensitive about this one but I’ve always disliked it when people tried to categorize me. I would think it was difficult to do that since I’ve always taken pride in being a multi-dimentional person with a diverse range of interests and hobbies. I mean, in high school for example, (the absolute peak period of time when people classify each other), I was a soccer playing, gym-going, guitar-playing, swing-dancing, fantasy book-reading, political protest-attending, newspaper editor/jock/nerd/musician. I had friends in all different circles and thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I couldn’t be boxed into a category. Now the same thing goes with this quadri/tetra/paraplegic nonsense that I keep hearing about.

(Technically, quad and tetra mean the same thing, motor or sensory impairment in all four limbs and para means an impairment of just the lower extremities)

To me, classifying myself as any of these admits defeat to a certain extent. When you break an arm or sprain your knee, do you start referring to yourself by a different term? If you get bronchitis or a severe flu do you accept some silly title that means little to you but probably makes a world of difference to medical students attempting to diagnose you? Of course, Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is obviously more significant than the flu or a broken bone and will take much longer to recover from, but my approach and outlook is that of a person with a temporary condition who is on the path to recovery. I see this injury as a hindrance, an obstacle, an extended stay in jail on the Monopoly board before I break out and piece my body back together and get back to full health.

Maybe because doctors are so reluctant to give SCI patients false hope is why they so frequently tell patients they won’t walk or recover and that leads to people to accept these self-defeating terms and calling themselves quadriplegic or what have you. Well, that’s not for me. No way. The only classification I can accept is that of a human being, albeit a badly injured one on an extremely difficult path, but I see myself as fundamentally no different than I was before this injury. I’m not going to start calling myself something different, and with all my intention, ambition and desire focused on a 100% recovery, there’s no chance I’ll ever refer to myself using any of these ridiculous terms. End of story.