Wednesday, June 19, 2024
HomeHealthNZ hospital food needs to change

NZ hospital food needs to change

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I had a bike accident a couple of weeks ago. A car came out of a side street and didn’t see me about to pass in front of it. I saw the car coming and I thought they had seen me, so I carried on. But they didn’t see me and kept going. My reaction was to slam on my brakes which stopped my bike dead.

Unfortunately, I didn’t stop and flew over the handlebars. I remember it too. I remember being upside down, looking down at my handlebars thinking ‘this is going to be really bad’. 

And it was. I landed on my left shoulder. Breaking my collarbone and three ribs and puncturing a lung. The pain was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before, and I’ve had 2 children with no painkillers.

People seemed to surround me within minutes and the fire brigade appeared out of nowhere. Those guys really are amazing.

Although the citizens were doing their absolute best and I’m very grateful to them all for stopping to help me. The Fire guys were so confident and reassuring. 

I ended up later that day in the Cardio Thoracic Ward of the Dunedin Hospital. I had surgery on my shoulder a couple of days later and they removed the tube that was inserted into my punctured lung. 

This is where the real story begins. 


Suddenly my injuries really paled in comparison to the other three people I shared my room with. Robin had been there for three weeks after having a double bypass heart surgery. Then a few days later Gail was wheeled in directly after her own bypass.

These women were opposite me in the room, so I was looking directly at them while sat up in bed at all the machines that were keeping them alive and allowing the nurses to monitor them. 

I became quite good friends with Robin. She was really kind to me and it was almost like we were pain buddies yelling out to each other from across the room looking after each other.

I think it’s really good to have a shared room. Although there is zero privacy, I do believe I would have been incredibly frightened had I been on my own. Robin really helped me in those first few days and I’m very grateful for her being there. 

Having never seen anyone before after open heart surgery I was fascinated with what I was seeing. I think we all know of someone who has been through this procedure and we hear of it happening all the time. Probably thinking it’s quite normal.

Let me tell you. There is nothing normal about this at all. It is absolutely frightening. I was in the TV room with a guy, we were watching Ellen and having a chat.

He looked me directly in the eye and said, “you don’t ever want to have heart surgery – Ever.” And I believed him. I could see his meaty scar running from just below his throat right down his chest. His shirt was unbuttoned a few, but the scar continued. The stitches looked massive, and the scar was all red and raw.

We all know that hospital food is pretty bad. But given that I was in the Cardio Thoracic ward, you would think that they would have some thought to what they are feeding these incredibly sick people. I learned that the only food requirement the kitchen was advised to adhere to was that there was to be no sodium or sugar in the food.

They brought some food to me which I took one look at and politely declined. So, they took it away. The next meal time, they brought in some more food, which I again declined. They were slightly frustrated and asked what I would eat.


I told them I was vegan and would eat anything as long as it didn’t come from an animal. Some fruit would be wonderful thanks. She came back with some peaches and yoghurt. I explained I didn’t eat yoghurt. She said, “but it’s plain yoghurt”. She didn’t understand I guess that it’s still from an animal.

A lady from the kitchen would come through and take the orders for dinner for the other patients. One evening’s choice was Beef Burgundy or Roast Chicken with peas and carrots.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

In this day and age, with all the advances in medicine and technology, why the F are we still feeding people this shit? It’s been well-proven that animal products cause cholesterol. Cholesterol leads to blocked arteries, which leads to heart attacks. The very poison that led these people to be in here having their chests cut open is being fed to them in hospital!

When Robin went home, she was given a handout of a healthy eating guideline. Basically, it advised her to eat everything in moderation. No mention in there of what to avoid in order to avoid another stay in hospital. Now this, to me, would be the most perfect opportunity to provide education to people to tell them how to turn their health around.

I got really angry. I was absolutely shocked, actually. I felt like we, as a country, had let Robin down. I was really upset with myself for not getting her details myself to follow up with her. I tried this later on. But the hospital told me her records were not saved, and they had no information to give me.


I wanted to say something in the room to her. But I thought the last thing she needed was this skinny, preachy vegan harping on to her from across the room.  

Hospitals are amazing places. The Nurses are incredible. I call them God’s Angels. The ones in my ward specialised in Cardio Thoracic. These men and women are incredibly smart, caring and carry on their work with zero judgment.

I watched them over the six days I was there with absolute awe. Even the cleaning lady, Wendy, was super friendly and lovely to chat with. The Doctors I spoke with were really friendly and explained everything to me. They were direct and to the point. But incredibly on to it. Full of confidence and made me feel I was in the right hands.

I feel very grateful to live in a country that provides such amazing health care. From the volunteer Fire Brigade, Ambulance, Helicopter, surgery and hospital, I felt incredibly safe, loved and looked after.

But we have to get with the program with regards to providing our most sick citizens with the nutrients and education they need to get well and stay well.  

I know eating well costs more money for the hospitals to provide. But how much does a heart operation cost? A hell of a lot more than spinach!


Sign up to our newsletter

For the latest in news, recipes and alerts be sure to sign up to our newsletter to stay up to date.

Most Popular

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest updates on plant-based evidence, recipes and opinions straight to your mailbox. 

You have Successfully Subscribed!