Cafe Reviews

Call It: Hospital Burgers Can't Be Saved

I should have devoured it.

I should have snatched that burger from its plastic plate and consumed its meaty soul — and it should have been beautiful. It should have been the best thing I'd eaten in five days.

Because I hadn't eaten in five days.

Fry Girl was hunkered down in the hospital. Not so much as a Jr. Bacon Cheese had crossed these fast-food-starved lips in almost a week. My tummy troubles began pre-hospital on Monday. On Wednesday, my hubby dragged my ass to the doc for an iodine-filled ride on the CAT scan-o-rama. News of my condition came immediately thereafter.

"It found something."


'"We're not sure. You've got to go to ER, right now. They're waiting for you.'

"Shit." Holy Hamburglar, what had they found? Nuggets in the gullet? A colon coated in double cheese? A supersize small intestine?

"Are you Laura Hah . . . Han . . . Hand-le-field . . .?" the admitting ER nurse asked.

(Sigh.) A nurse whisked me by 15 people in the waiting room, and went to work urgently preparing my room, as if I were a Hollywood celebrity showing up for plastic surgery. (You're room's ready, Ms. Minnelli!) I stared at her, bewildered, but admittedly loving the attention.

"You get to be first in line 'cause of what you've been diagnosed with!" she proudly informs me.

"And what's that?"

"Appendicitis!" She practically squeals.


Little did I know that burger was waiting, keeping itself from me until the time was right. Forming in my mind like a delicious dream. When I was ready, it was going to be crazy-good.

" . . . And option number three is to keep you here for observation."

That was my ER doc, telling me the CAT scan was vague (all that radiation gone to waste . . .), appendicitis wasn't a given, and options one and two involved cutting and more cutting. I went for door number three: Observation and a couple of overnight stays.

Two nights in the hospital — and no hunger. In four days, I'd never thought about eating, not once. Not when my roomie, whose constant groaning started to sound like "Mmm! Mmm!" instead of "Mm-more mm-morphine!" Not when an orderly walked by with a McDonald's bag in hand (What up, healthcare professional!)

Friday morning. With the break of dawn came a break in my condition. My hunger had triumphantly returned.

"I'm hungry!" I announced to my doc, clad in two hospital gowns, green socks, and crazy hair, fake sparring with him in the hallway to prove I was well enough to go home. He looked less than amused.

We dealt: He'd let me go home if I could keep a solid meal down. Anything off the menu.

Hell, yeah. Order up: cheeseburger and fries. Fry Girl was goin' home happy. No food in five days? The best-tasting burger setup was in place, hospital food be damned. Commence lip-smackin'.

"It's okay, it's okay," I reassured myself when I lifted the metal lid from the wheeled-in tray and saw it. It. Flattened, beaten down like the last hope of nationalized healthcare, an army of fries resting limply on top of each other like defeated soldiers. "We did everything we could to save her, Fry Girl," they seemed to say, "but the burger is dead — you'll see!'"

(Gulp.) I lifted the bun, hard on the edges and too soft on the middle, and took a peek inside. Cheese, or something like it, was splattered on a charred, circular meat pad, glowing orange strands desperately hanging from inside of the bread, a smell somewhere between school cafeteria and research laboratory.

I took a bite.

Horrible. Not just horrible — five-days-of-not-eating horrible. The dry, tasteless meat and lifeless fries must've been through a CAT scan of their own. Disgusted and saddened, I reluctantly took my fast-food medicine, and focused on flying the coop.

"So what's the diagnosis?" I asked the doc after he thumbed-up my release.

"Inconclusive. You'll have to see your doctor next week."

"Shit. Hey, is there a McDonald's nearby?"

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Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld