It was a regular Tuesday and mom had a routine doctor’s appointment. They left their home in South Jersey and headed North for the checkup. While in route to the Doc’s office my dad began feeling some pain and even lack of oxygen. They got to their appointment for my mom, the Doc looked at my dad and before they knew it, dad was being admitted into the Emergency Room.
It turns out that dad had some serious blockage going on in his arteries and an operation, Open-heart surgery, was a must. We prayed, we cried, we hoped for the best.
Dad went into surgery and we are relieved that all has gone well thus far.
There were and still are many facets of this whole operation and recovery that I am ignorant to and learning. But one thing that I do have some knowledge about is nutrition. I noticed that in the pre-operation phase, there was a vast menu for dad to choose his meals from in the critical condition ward. It was quite similar to the menu found at a standard New Jersey diner. There were a couple of salads available on the menu but mainly it was composed of the same Shit that we see in the SAD (standard american diet.) My thoughts were that maybe they are letting him eat this shit because they do not want to rock the boat to much before such a drastic operation. This is the food that got him in here to begin with, why would they try to heal him with this garbage. It didn’t make much sense to me but this is a top hospital in New Jersey; they must know what they are doing, right?
Dad went into the operating room and as you can imagine, our nerves were at an all-time high. The feeling of uncertainty.. the way that past memories with my dad just flashed before my eyes; It was torture. Here I was, a health and fitness coach and there was nothing that I could do for my dad. If only there was a way for me to take him pain and bear it myself. It was the feeling of having a 200lb kettlebell on my chest that seemed to get heavier with each passing breath. All of my skills and knowledge couldn’t do a damn thing for my dad. I have been through a lot in life but I have never felt so helpless.
Dad was out (sleeping) for a couple of days and the operation went well according to the doctors. We were a bit relieved but still felt like we were gasping
for air with each passing breath. Seeing him stabbed up like a pin cushion with all sorts of needles as well as tubes coming from every part of his body was enough to bring the strongest of men to their knees; I would wish this upon no one. A day went by and dad finally awoke.
Medication was a constant as we waited and visited with dad. There seemed to be a doctor and/or nurse coming into his room every 15 minutes to give him some sort of medication. There were pills to sleep, eat, kill pain, thin his blood, go to the bathroom and that was just the visits before breakfast.
Food- Now there is a topic that i am familiar with. I felt quite proud that I could actually do something for my dad now! I know food and I know nutrition. This is what I study and also what I teach. Dad was now in good hands because he had his son, the Coach, to guide him through this process which will greatly change his life going forward. You remember the menu that I looked at initially, pre operation? Well..It was back!
What was dad’s post- open heart surgery meal? Dad had a breaded fish, a salad that would fit in your typical shot glass w/Italian dressing, 2 ginger ale sodas, skim milk, refined white bread with tons of preservatives, cranberry juice cocktail (sugar shit storm), Dole fruit cocktail cup for desert (more refined sugar). There were also extra sugar, salt and ketchup packets for good measure. Keep in mind that this was some of the cleaner food on this menu. There was also fettuccine Alfredo, pizza, grilled cheese and, well, just check your local IHOP menu for the rest of the list since they are quite similar.
I spend so much of my life informing those that want to learn about kettlebells, nutrition, fitness and building a healthy lifestyle. The information that I convey to clients is all easily verified in multiple studies. So why didn’t some of the best surgeons and Doctors in the Country get this memo? If my dad’s past lifestyle got him into this situation, does it make sense for his caregivers to pick up exactly where he left off and expect change?
The frustration that I am experiencing is overwhelming at times. My parents are “old school.” They were born and raised to humble families in rural Portugal. To them the doctor’s words are similar to “god” speaking to them. So when their proud son, the Coach, comes in with his advice, contradicting the good doctors…well, that is the “devil” speaking for lack of a better comparison.
Now, my parents love me and respect me; I have no doubt in that statement. However, who am I to oppose what these highly educated doctors are preaching and recommending to my parents for dad’s care? I’m just a fitness coach, what the hell do I know. If I could read my parents mind it would go something like, “I know that Helder means well and we applaud his effort but he is way out of his league on this one…but it’s cute that he is at least trying to help his dad.” So basically, I’m a 10 year old cub scout giving my parents advice while the seasoned scoutmaster tells it like it really is..
Mis-information is something that we contend with as fitness professionals. Every day there seems to be some new bit of information that tries to contradict much of what we teach our NTC members. Luckily, we can easily point out the lack of credibility in those “new findings” to our clients. Unfortunately in this case, when we have chief surgeons concentrating on getting patients “back to their original lifestyle” at the expense of the patients health leaves much to be desired in my book.
I must admit that I am extremely thankful to all of the doctors, nurses and medical staff that helped my dad. These are amazing people that gave selflessly to make things..just a little bit better for my dad. Everyone went way above and beyond and I couldn’t be more grateful. These were all true professional, even the security guards had amazing compassion and did what they could to comfort us. I thanked them all and even gave them the biggest hug that I could. We can never fault the staff for what they are taught and led to believe is right. But the system itself needs to be over-hauled and fast!
We joke at times about the pharmaceutical company’s knowing that they money is in the treatment, never in the cure. Are hospitals subscribing to this same prescription? The thought alone is awful and brings a sense of nausea to ones gut but what other explanation could there be? The wonderful staff that helped us would never subscribe to that notion once they know the facts. However, I doubt that they are the ones deciding and prescribing this menu to patients. Well then, who is responsible? That seems to be the billion dollar question.
I will do my best to influence dad’s eating patterns but competing with the medical doctors’ advice will be one hell of an uphill battle but I will never give up. This is my dad, my role model, my motivation. Dad gave me my life and I will do everything to keep that man living to the fullest.
People are learning, people want change and are sick and tired of being sick and tired! We realize that other loved ones may one day be in the same scenario. Hell..there is a good chance that it will be one of us in that same situation in the not so distant future. Will you fight for what you love?
Thank you for reading, I needed to get this out more than you could imagine.