Saturday, November 24, 2012

Recipe: Easy, Peasy Salsa Chicken

I read this recipe in a Weight Watchers magazine and thought it sounded so easy and so good!  If there is one thing I hate, it is a complicated recipe.  I will often choose recipes by the number of ingredients and/or the number of steps included in them.  So, this one really struck me as something that I can do AND that would taste good.  I was thinking it would be good over pasta as well.

According to the March/April 2012 WW magazine, you bring 1/2 c. salsa verde (a fave of my hubby's) to simmer in a skillet.  You then stir in 3/4 c. shredded cooked chicken breast (I am always looking for recipes to use up the roasted chicken you can get at Costco) and 1/2 c. rinsed and drained canned black beans (another fave of hubby's).  You cook this for 4 minutes and voila!  This recipe only makes 1 3/4 c. (recipe was written for one) so if you are cooking for a family, you probably want to bump everything up about 4 or 5 times what reads here.  But, it sure sounds good!

I think I will give it a try this week as I have all the ingredients on hand (a pretty amazing feat for me)!  If I do, I will post some pictures and a review!

Thankful for NOT being in a hospital room this Thanksgiving, but feeling bad for everyone who is...

This news story about kids spending Thanksgiving in a hospital room in Rochester NY caught my eye when it appeared on the Donate Life blog for a few reasons.  First, we spent last Thanksgiving (2011) in a hospital room with Bean recovering from pneumonia.

Second, one of our close online heart transplant friends - a little boy close in age to Bean and also on a similar timeline transplant-wise (he received his heart about a month after Bean received hers) is spending this year in the hospital with fevers from unknown causes.  Finally, we had a clinic visit the day before Thanksgiving and I saw many, many families coming and going to visit their children in the hospital at Lucille Packard.

Being in the hospital pretty much stinks in general, but being there on a holiday is really bad.  The story doesn't fully capture the disappointment of eating a Thanksgiving meal out of a to-go container (and that only if you have a good friend like I did who was willing and able to bring it by on her own holiday travels) or leftovers from someone else's meal.  The hospital tries to make the most of it, with a special menu for both patients and visitors.  But, it is still institutional food served in institutional containers.  As the mom in the article states, it does become your "normal" after a while, but I don't think normal makes it good or less disappointing.  It is just normal to be suffering that disappointment.

I will say I was happy to be there on Thanksgiving and not Christmas.  So far, we've spent the following holidays in the hospital:  Easter, Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving.  Oh, and if you count it, Cinco de Mayo.  :)  We have a bunny and coffe cup we were given at Sutter Memorial in Sacramento in 2009.   I watched fireworks from the roof of Lucile Packard in 2009.  I ate a Boston Market Thanksgiving dinner at Lucile Packard in 2011.  And we watched a Stanford University's mariachi band play in the lobby of the 3rd floor of Lucile Packard in 2012.  All in all, they are not horrible memories, but the memories from holidays spent at home with family and friends are obviously much, much better!  I think in a way, you don't really have "holiday memories" for the ones spent in the hospital - there, it is just another day.  So, those who spend multiple holidays in a hospital really suffer a loss in their lives.

I am sure to spend another holiday or two in the hospital in the coming years - it is pretty much inevitable with a child who received a heart transplant and now has a leaky valve.  But, for this year, I am thankful to be at home instead of a hospital room!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving - Now, go eat your weight in food!

Thanksgiving is honestly one of my favorite holidays.  There is no stress of buying the perfect gift or even getting the perfect card.  Although there is a lot of cooking involved, it is all pretty normal, everyday food that requires no special talent to make correctly (unless you're one of those crazy foodies who does weird things to normal foods - but, if that is the case, you do that by choice), and everyone feels totally fine sitting around after eating way too much and watching football and then eating more.  That, my friends, is my kind of holiday.

This year is a little less joyful as my mom is going through chemo and doesn't seem to have a very good appetite right now, my dad has dementia and will need someone to help him eat, my husband is sick with a cold, and I'm exhausted after spending the week helping out my parents.  But, I am thankful that we will have an excellent meal made in my sister's amazing new kitchen that was just finished about a month ago, that both parents will be present, despite their ailments and that our daughter is in good health.  Last year, I spent Thanksgiving in a hospital room at the Children's hospital where she receives care.  She was diagnosed with pneumonia and poor oxygenation two days before Thanksgiving and we were there until two days after Thanksgiving.  So, this year, despite all it's negatives, is much better than last year.

I will say that I will NOT be participating in the Black Friday madness (really, can we call it Black Friday anymore with stores opening at 8 p.m. on Thursday?).  It is an event I view with much disdain ever since working retail during my college years.  For those who have to work those events, the dread will surely ruin the holiday for some (if their work schedule doesn't ruin it for them).  For any of you planning to participate, I have a few pleas for you:

  1. Don't act like you didn't realize there would be a crowd - there will be lines, there will be pushy people (heck, you may be one).
  2. Don't physically or emotionally abuse your fellow shoppers or the store workers.  Is it really worth saving $100 to make others feel horrific either physically or emotionally?  If the answer for you is yes, seek help.
  3. Don't force your friends and/or family to go with you.  It is cruel and it will ruin the holiday for some of them!  Find friends and/or family who WANT to get up at some ungodly hour and go to an overcrowded store to stand in line.
  4. Don't sacrifice your holiday for your consumer items.  I just saw a news story that showed people camping out in front of Best Buy.  Some said they have not had a Thanksgiving dinner at home in years.  Seems like you've missed the point of the holiday...
Okay - if, after all that, you still feel compelled to shop - go to it!  I will be happily sitting around, eating leftovers and taking my mom to a chemo appointment (well, I won't be happily doing that, but it is what I will be doing).  

Improving Hospitals - the Small Things...

I realize this isn't going to come as a surprise to many people. No one likes the hospital, really. And, being someone who has spent a fair amount of time in them in the last few years, I would say there are some good things that hospital have done recently to improve things. But, overall, they are still an institutional setting that are not terribly attractive places to spend any amount of time, whether as a patient or as a patient's advocate/caretaker. I find there are a few things that stand out to me as problematic and possibly fixable.

First, hospitals are a place of waiting. You wait for everything. Whether you are staying overnight or just visiting a doctor or picking up a prescription - it all requires a wait it seems. It seems to me that the waiting is often happening in a space that is not very conducive to waiting. I mean, sure, they're called "waiting" rooms, but really, they might as well be called "rooms with nothing to do but read magazines no one is interested in reading, ever." Some of the recent waiting rooms I've been in lately have not even had a TV. And those that do have a TV often have a channel on that no one really cares to watch. In addition, the seating is sometimes totally uncomfortable. There never seems to be any food or drinks available without leaving, which you can't really do because you are waiting for someone or something. I just think that waiting rooms could be designed better. First of all, there should never, ever be another waiting room without a wi-fi connection. Ever...In addition, there should be some kind of snack availability. Machines that require change are a pain, but are better than nothing. I would love to have a little snack bar there with someone staffing it, or better yet, a free coffee and snack bar for those waiting. What a grand thing that would be and how much it would improve the whole hospital experience...

Second, hospitals are not very restful places. There is so much noise, so much light and so much activity at all hours. Who can recover from any illness or surgery in that atmosphere? As a person who stayed with my daughter for months while she was in the hospital, I was totally exhausted. Sometimes they try to make it a little more conducive - turning off lights and turning down the monitor noises, but it is still rather disconcerting to have people coming in and out at all hours. And when I was in the hospital post my daughter's birth, I remember the bed being horribly uncomfortable. Like a bad mattress on one of those 1970s hide-a-bed couches everyone hated to be stuck on at their relatives' house during the holidays. Why would that be a place for someone to recover and get better. I was convinced it was so I would want to get out of there ASAP. But, the combination of the noise and the constant activity and the uncomfortable bed made me constantly exhausted.

Finally, hospitals are primarily for sick people. Sick people should be put in situations that make things easier, not more difficult. My mom is in chemo right now. She is often weak and sick and just plain not feeling well. In addition, my dad has dementia and severe mobility issues. Their hospital has no valet service and usually the handicapped parking is completely full and what you can get is not that close to the entrance. They used to have valet parking, but they got rid of it. People are constantly double and triple parked, dropping people off. Others, who look completely miserable, are stuck standing out by the curb waiting for someone to come and pick them up after retrieving their car from the far-reaches of the parking lot or parking garage. There aren't even benches out near the loading zone. I think hospitals should have valet parking (our children's hospital does and Lord knows it has been a life-saver many times) and/or a shuttle to cars in the parking lot that are beyond walking distance. They could do it by page if they are concerned about able-bodied people using it. But, my mom is no longer able to go to the hospital on her own because they have made it so incredibly inconvenient for her.

Over all, hospitals are places of miracles nowadays. My daughter had a heart transplant and a valve repair and is still doing quite fantastic. My mom has had cancer multiple times, only to beat it each time with a combination of surgery and chemotherapy. Doctors and nurses are amazing people who do amazing work. But, hospitals, as a place, could do better. And often, it isn't the big things that matter, but the small things. A nice place to wait, some quiet and inactivity overnight, and recognition that people going to a hospital need help - valet, shuttle service, etc.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Comment on: Hospital guidelines not linked to readmissions | Fox News

I thought this was interesting considering all the recent discussions of lowering costs of Medicare tied to the readmission rates.  The article: Hospital guidelines not linked to readmissions | Fox News discusses a study that finds that the readmission rates may not have as much to do with what the hospital does as was previously assumed, and I would agree.

Being someone who has dealt with both a child and a parent being in the hospital with something like Pneumonia, I can see the vast difference in the follow-up care between the two (assuming most individuals on Medicare are older adults).  When we brought home Bean from the hospital after having been in with pneumonia, we were told to go see the pediatrician within 48 hours.  We had a follow-up chest X-ray done to make sure the pneumonia was staying gone.  All this required driving from our home to the pede's office to the X-ray place and back home again.  We did another follow-up appointment about 48 hours after that as well.  As individuals who drive regularly, this was relatively easy for us (we also have flexible jobs thankfully).  But, for my mom, who doesn't drive anymore and has a husband with dementia and mobility problems, getting back to follow-up appointments requires that she finds someone who can not only take her to the appointment, but also find another person to "watch" my dad while she is gone or someone who is willing to take him along and sit in the car the entire time if he is having a low-mobility day.  That also means she has to go into the doctor alone.  None of this is easy for her.

I imagine she is not that unique in this respect.  And for individuals like my dad, he has to have someone who can help him with medicines and getting to a follow-up appointment is a true investment in time and effort.  My point here is that if, as the reference to the Reuters article says:
Another recent study suggested that many factors outside a hospital's control can cause a patient to need rehospitalization. For example, the person's ability to keep up with their medications at home, or to make follow-up visits to a personal physician (see Reuters Health article of October 19, 2012, here:
is correct about it being more a question of follow-up, Medicare could save a lot of money by figuring out a way to provide more services that allow for people like my mom and dad to get the follow-up care they need without it becoming a burden on them or others who are helping with care.  Sometimes, phone calls may work.  Other times, maybe in-home visits would be more economical and helpful.

I think that the health system has become a difficult to navigate and expensive, not just for the health care itself, but even to access that healthcare, undertaking because of bureaucratic and corporatist requirements placed on individuals working within that system.  Access to healthcare may mean less hospital visits in the first place and certainly less readmissions, which seems to be a concern.  In this age of technology, it seems that basic follow-up visits could easily be more mobile in nature.

Again, I focused on older individuals in this post because that is the majority of Medicare recipients.  But, I can see problems with younger people as well who lack flexibility in their jobs to take additional time off for follow-up appointments or who can't afford to get prescriptions filled right away after a hospital stay, etc.  The mobile follow-up for health care is obviously not the silver bullet of solutions, but it seems to me it may be one possible solution for this cost of readmission.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: Our Husband by Stephanie Bond

Our HusbandOur Husband by Stephanie Bond
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I actually enjoyed this book a lot and if possible, I would give it 3 1/2 stars. It isn't deep and it isn't terribly surprising, but I thought the characters were likable. The plot line is predictable, but it is sort of like watching a fun sort of Lifetime or Hallmark movie - you know everything is going to work itself out, but its worth reading to see the characters figure it out for themselves. It was a great light read for me during a time when I had a lot going on.

View all my reviews