Monday, March 30, 2009

Mom's Knee Surgery at Cleveland Clinic in South Florida

So far, so good. It's hard to believe that you can have knee surgery in about the time it takes for a few fillings at the dentist's office. Okay, so prep and recovery add some time, but the process itself is about an hour for a full knee replacement.

My mom did really well. The hardest part was getting to the point where she walked through the front door of the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida (west of Fort Lauderdale and if you are anywhere near South Florida, it's a great place to go). Kudos to my brother, Stephen, for doing the research on where to get mom in for knee surgery.

My mom's big worry is, of course, her two orange tabby cats, Tyler and Pineapple (the former being the rather overweight indoor sissy cat and the latter being the lean, outdoorsy hunter). The cats have access to her garage and plenty of food and water, so I'm not the least bit worried.

Me? I'm staying a mile down the road at the Courtyard Marriott (not a lot of choices nearby) so I can spend most of the day at my mom's room and not have a 1.5 hour drive back to her house in the sticks, I mean, the "acreage" out in Loxahatchee (my brother and I talk about it being as far west as you think you can go and then go a little farther).

Stephen wondered why it took me so long to drive down here. I patiently explained that mom's Saturn has seen far better days and that it needs a good alignment session (I asked my mom if she had hit a curb before and she said "yes" but only going about 5 mph, hmmm). So for now, her car tops out at around 55 mph in zones where 70 mph is perfectly legal. A fine car for a little old lady who most days goes no farther than the grocery store and the gas station, but for long commutes, not so fun!

I have to say, the Cleveland Clinic seemed to live up to its reputation. I wrote on my Facebook status that my mom's anesthesiologist looked and sounded like Antonio Banderas (nice!) and her operating room nurse's name was "Hope" (even better). Everyone was incredibly helpful and nice and the facility seems first-rate (my mom bragged about having a room "with a view").

Around 10:00 pm, Stephen called (my mom had only gotten to her room less than an hour before he called). There were many things my mom couldn't remember, but she remembered a little piece of gossip she had heard and promptly repeated it to Stephen. Funny how that works. We teased her about being a bit dramatic (she feigned shock, quite true to form). Lots of laughter and good spirits, which allowed me to let out a big sigh of relief at how well my mom was doing (pain meds help, of course!).

Meanwhile, my mom is a night owl at heart and around 11:30 pm tonight she looked plaintively up at me as I started to gather my things to leave. I promised to come back in the morning and set her up with the tv remote, along with her juice and jello, and she blew me a kiss with a big smile telling me how happy she is that I flew out to be with her for her surgery.

Dramatic. Appreciative. Endearing. That's my mom, and I am happy to be here for her. Fingers crossed for a good day two!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Potato Chips & Acrylamide Warning

As my regular readers know, I'm off dairy and wheat for a few more months (elimination diet to address food allergies, etc.).

I tried to tell myself that butter really doesn't count as dairy, as I like to cook with butter sometimes, and it certainly made my most recent ritual of Sunday soup-making outstanding. For you foodies with inquiring minds, I made a simple but quite awesome asparagus, sweet potato, chicken, and garlic soup.

Back to butter, though, which has trace amounts of lactose. I also tell myself that taking a few extra Pancreatic Enzymes -- which have lactase to help digest lactose -- eliminates my occasional dairy transgressions through extra digestive help.

A quick caution though
: for people with genuine allergies instead of mere food sensitivities, butter does have enough milk proteins to trigger an allergic response.

Day in and day out on a six-month elimination diet, it can be hard to avoid all dairy and gluten (so many hidden sources!), along with eggs and almonds. Fun food sometimes feels like a thing of the past, with even my favorite gluten-free baking mix (Pamela's Baking & Pancake mix) including dairy and almonds. Sigh.

So, of late, potato chips have been looking awfully good (none of the no-no's on my list and an authentic fun food, even if totally bereft of nutritional value).

Just like I told myself that butter didn't really count as dairy, I had been conveniently forgetting about the hidden substance in fried foods such as potato chips: acrylamide.

Acrylamide is produced when starchy foods are cooked at high temperatures and it is responsible for the "browned" color and irresistible flavor of fried, grilled, and toasted foods.

Unfortunately, acrylamide is also considered by many to be a toxic substance, which increases the risk of cancer and other health problems. As a neurotoxin, acrylamide can also damages nerve cells. In fact, Health Canada recently recommended that acrylamide be added to Canada's list of toxic substances.

Since plenty of folks like their chips fried, their coffee roasted, and their meats charred on the grill, the race is on to develop a commercial enzyme that will convert the amino acid, asparagine, which produces acrylamide, into a safer amino acid, aspartic acid.

Science is always so fascinating, even if we clearly don't need safer ways to ingest massively empty calories! For now, I'm back to "if it's 'fun food,' spit it right out." :-)