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Nurse Bel and the Patient Who Only Ate KFC

April 12, 2013

A nineteen-year-old male patient refuses to choose anything from the lunchtime menu.

“’S mingin’” he mumbles, more to the counterpane than to Bel, as he returns the card to her.

He’s not the kind of youth to inspire much enthusiasm, thinks Bel as she regards him – dispirited and cold-looking, fiddling with his smart phone – but all the same, she tries to be encouraging.

“OK” she says hopefully. “Is there anything you would like?”

“Nooooo” he replies, in the voice he probably uses when he wants his mum to stop asking him where he’s been. To re-enforce the point, he turns over on his side to face away from her and pulls the blankets over his head.

Bel walks around to the other side of the bed and crouches down beside the outline of his upper body.

“Listen” she says gently. “We can’t just not give you anything. What about the curry? Everyone likes curry don’t they?”

A muffled voice emerges. “’S mingin’. Burn my mouth out innit?”

“OK. So what do you usually eat?”

A pause. “KFC”.

“KFC? What? That’s all you eat?”

“Yeah. The dietician, yeah, she said she’s sending me a special meal an’ that, innit?”

Bel is momentarily incredulous. “Sorry? You mean she’s sending out for a takeaway for you?”

“Nooooo!” The get-lost-mum whine is back. “Chicken an’ fries an’ that”.

“Nothing’s come up with the other meals” says Bel doubtfully as she rises from her protesting knees. “Let me ring the dietician and see what she says”.

She goes over to the trolley and yanks out the notes. Luckily, the dietician has left a contact number at the end of her documentation. Bel bleeps her. When she answers, she says she didn’t see this patient until eleven o’clock and she told him there wouldn’t be time to arrange anything for lunch. The special meals will start at supper time.

Bel returns to the bedside. In her absence, the patient has returned to sitting upright, and is currently hunched over his phone. “The dietician says she told you the special meals wouldn’t start until this evening” she says.

Clearly angry at being caught out, the patient says nothing but lowers his head and jabs more fiercely at the phone. He’s probably been behaving like this since he was two years old thinks Bel. She remains unabashed. “What she did say…” she continues brightly “…was that you should try to eat other things…try something different”. The unread leaflets on the bedside table confirm the truth of this observation. The patient maintains the silent treatment. Bel has an idea.

“OK, look” she says. “I’ll get the tariff menu. I think that might have something…”

The so-called ‘tariff menu’ is the menu of last resort. It exists so that patients who miss scheduled meals because they are away from the ward having investigations or treatment can still order something when they get back. The nurses are discouraged from making too much use of it because it’s more expensive to order food this way.

After a bit of rummaging around, Bel finds the list of available options. She takes it over to the patient. “I think there’s chicken nuggets and chips on the children’s menu” she says as she hands it to him. She wonders if the revelation that the Trust considers chicken nuggets and chips to be children’s fare will embarrass him into ordering something different, but it doesn’t seem to. He barely looks up from his phone. “OK” he says as he thrusts the menu back at her. “Can I have tomato sauce with it?”

Bel phones the co-ordination desk with his order.

“We don’t normally do children’s meals for adult wards” says the person on the other end.

“What if we use mental age as the determinant?” thinks Bel.

“Yeah, but he’ll have to go without otherwise” she says. “He only ever eats KFC apparently, and chicken nuggets are the nearest thing. I’ve tried, but he just won’t entertain anything else. Maybe he can get a bit bigger portion?”

“I’ll have to request two separate meals, but we can deliver them together. Can I take your name for the authorization slip? It’s just that your ward will be charged for this and it’ll cost you. We need to have a name so we know who authorized it if there’s a query”.

Bel sighs and tells her.

“OK. Leave it with me”.

Twenty minutes pass. Bel is sitting at the desk writing notes when she hears a disturbance. She looks up to see a straggly group of three young men swaggering towards her, laughing and shouting. Ignoring the nurses, they swerve off into the male bay. Bringing up the rear is a porter carrying something Bel recognises as a package of food from the tariff menu. The words ‘Chic/Nug x2′ are clearly written on the outer wrapping. The porter deposits it in front of her with an expression of bemusement.

“Didn’t know you had kids on this ward” he says.

“Only big ones” smiles Bel as she picks it up. “When I give it to him, he’ll probably say there’s something wrong with it, but if I leave him with nothing, he’ll just moan to his mum about how we’re starving him”.

Entering the bay, Bel immediately notices that the patient has got out of bed. He and his mates are bent over a smart phone, yelping and guffawing at something on the screen. Bel puts the food on the bedside table. “I’ve brought your lunch” she says.

The patient turns to her. His friends are sniggering. “Naaagh” he says. “You’re all right. Me an’ me mates is goin’ downstairs for a bit, innit?”

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From → Nurse Bel

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