One of the challenges we are facing in the hospital and with Caemon’s disease is getting him to eat much. He has quickly grown tired of any and all hospital foods (although they have a whole room service menu for the kids’ floors), and has also developed some painful mouth sores from his latest chemotherapy. We have a dietitian who visits fairly regularly to determine what she can do to help Caemon eat. Sometimes this means offering us advice about what to order from the menu. We learned, for example, that we could order milkshakes at any time of day. We also learned very quickly that our child is not a fan of milkshakes. Or ice cream. Or pudding.
What we have determined is that Caemon is bored with hospital food and tired of unfamiliar flavors. We have started bringing him cream-top yogurt, making super macaroni and cheese from home with lots of extra butter and cream and olive oil. These sorts of things work for a little while, but we can’t cook for him on a regular basis here, so the dietitian tries to work her magic. One day this week, she asked if we had tried avocado. I was sitting there with Caemon and mentioned that while he probably wouldn’t eat plain avocado, he does like guacamole. With this cue, Caemon began mentioning things like cumin, lime, garlic powder, and the dietitian perked up. “Did you just say cumin?” Yes. Yes, he did. She jotted some notes down, wrapped up our conversation, and left.
The next morning, when the nurses were in giving Caemon his morning meds, the dietitian popped in with a brown paper bag. I thought maybe she had brought Caemon a smoothie or something. Soon, however, she revealed that what she had was far more interesting. She opened the bag to show us two small containers: one containing cumin, the other garlic powder. She had packets of salt and pepper, and a fork. “At ten o’clock,” she told Caemon, “you’re going to get a bowl of avocado, and I want you to make the best guacamole you’ve ever had.”
Caemon and I were excited all morning, when finally, there was a quiet knock at the door, and in came a food services worker with a bowl of avocado. “Are you sure this is for him?” she asked.
I smiled broadly as I took the avocado from her hand. “Oh, yes. We’re making guacamole.”
And there it started. Caemon and I sat on his bed, smashed up that bowl of avocado, and began to pull out our spices.
He gleefully pinched a bit of cumin into the bowl. Then, I handed him a spoon so that he could measure out some garlic powder, and he giggled, so delighted. We added a little salt, he stirred. We were both so very happy to be cooking together, for this is our favorite activity. Caemon helps me make most foods he eats at home, but he has had no control over how food comes to him here, and we haven’t had that wonderful experience of creating together. This was a moment of pure bliss for both of us.
Soon, the guacamole was ready, and when I asked Caemon if he wanted a bite, he grabbed the fork and eagerly devoured a bite. Then I handed him a spoon, and in the course of five minutes, he ate nearly a cup of guacamole–something that tasted so much of home. It was the best moment I’ve had since we have been here.
Now we have guacamole time every day. He doesn’t always want it, and that’s okay. Most days he will eat a little though, which is all we’re asking because even a little will make such a difference in helping him keep his weight on and helping him stay off of IV nutrition.
But even more important than this, he got to have a hand in feeding himself, in creating flavors he likes, in making his world a little more familiar. It was the best gift anyone could have given us that day.