A Vegan Experience of Surgery & Recovery: I had chest reconstruction surgery on August 22nd 2017. For Vegan Mofo 2017, I will be writing about my experience preparing for surgery and my ongoing recovery.
Yesterday I wrote about my experience of having surgery at the Nuffield Hospital in Brighton. Today I’ll be writing about the food during my stay, as I felt it warranted its own post.
Eating vegan at a hospital has always been a bit of a worry for me. I’ve heard of and witnessed horror stories from some dear friends of mine, who have either been given nothing at all, something that isn’t vegan or plain dry baked potatoes during their hospital stays. I had higher hopes once I had chosen the Nuffield because I had heard good things about this hospital and also with it being private rather than NHS, I did have higher expectations of them.
I confirmed my dietary needs in my Pre-Op appointment and was assured that vegan menus were available, so I sort of left it at that and hoped for the best. Looking back I wish I hadn’t done this, it wasn’t the worst experience but honestly, it wasn’t great considering that a nights stay at that place comes in at £500.
When I arrived at my room I had someone from the catering team come and hand me a menu for lunch. I explained straight away that I was vegan and had mentioned this previously and asked to see the vegan menu. I was asked if I could check that none of the lunch menu was suitable, they were all meaty, cheesy and eggy sandwich options.
The only vegan menu they had was for dinner. These options were actually pretty good, there was a Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce, Bean Patties with a Tomato Sauce and a Lentil Curry. There was also an option for a fruit or jelly dessert I think, but that was so boring I skipped it. I decided to go for lentil curry as the thought of eating Spaghetti a few hours after being butchered sounded a little tricky.
The catering assistant took my dinner order and said she would go and speak to the chef about vegan options. This was really frustrating because I had been told that they have vegan menus for all their meals, I really didn’t want the added stress of worrying about food when I was about to have major surgery. When they returned they told me that the chef just asked what I wanted and they would make it.
This is so unhelpful. I don’t know what they have in their kitchen, so how am I supposed to know what to suggest? Of course I’d love a fake chicken salad baguette, or a vegan cheese and pesto toasty, but of course they probably can’t do this. I ended up asking for the most boring option of hummus sandwich with salad because I didn’t want to have this back and forth with the chef over what ingredients they have. They probably could have made me something a bit more exciting and filling but it wasn’t worth the faff.
I had the same problem with the breakfast menu, nothing was marked specifically vegan. I was told they have veggie sausages that may be vegan, so I went for the fry up without egg (so mushrooms, tomato, baked beans, toast) and said if the sausages were vegan I would have them too.
So, what did I end up getting? Well, due to my surgery being delayed I didn’t end up getting lunch as I was in theatre until nearly 4pm. But I’m sure that sandwich was just as boring as I expected it to be.
Dinner was really nice. It’s a shame I felt so nauseous because I was really struggling with the texture of it. I actually think the bean patties may have been easier to stomach as chewing the rice was making me feel sick. But, the flavours were great, it was a nice curry and a generous portion. I only managed maybe 6-8 bites but it was good, I can’t knock it.
Breakfast the following morning was a total disappointment. It came pretty late on in the morning so I was super glad I’d packed some Ella’s Smoothies in my bag as I was super hungry after not being able to eat much the night before.
So obviously, there were no vegan sausages available. Disappointing because it’s not hard to get some in and if they have veggie ones they might as well be suitable for vegans too. But fine, I’ve had breakfasts without veggie sausage before, but you’d think whoever made me this would have the common sense to add a little extra of everything on my plate considering I was having to skip the egg and sausage. I shouldn’t really have to explain that, it’s obvious this isn’t a substantial breakfast. Thankfully they didn’t skimp on the toast.
I would probably be less scathing if I received this at an NHS hospital because they are super understaffed, busy and I know that I would probably need to bring some extra food in. But when I’m paying £500 for a nights stay and I’ve given advance notice of my dietary requirements, this isn’t great. Also, what’s the point of only having a vegan menu for one meal? Just do a proper one for breakfast lunch and dinner.
So, it wasn’t the worst experience but I know next time to bring more supplies. Luckily I had those smoothie things and a brownie, but next time I’ll probably bring along some more soft foods to eat, so bananas, fruit purees, soya pudding etc.
Have you had vegan food in hospital? What was your experience like?
EDIT: Have to say, I’m very impressed. Within 20 minutes of posting this review and tagging Nuffield Health, I’ve already had a response from them. They have thanked me for the feedback and will be taking it forward to the catering team. Really great news, I hope that things improve for future vegan patients!