Every time someone asks how my stroke-recovery-patient Husband Richard is doing, I share those good wishes with him. He always smiles and is pleased.
My stalwart spouse is doing relatively well, despite battling recent consecutive lung infections. (Maybe it was triggered by allergy season? Weed abatement nearby can stir up a lot of sneezy stuff.)
We’re very fortunate: Husband Richard does nearly everything he used to do, just a little slower and less efficiently than he did before his life-changing stroke 2 1/2 years ago.
Yes, it has been that long.
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He walks with the support of a walker or cane. He writes. He eats fairly normal food, although swallowing can be problematic. He talks (sometimes more clearly than others) and still tells the same jokes (which are as groaner-bad as ever — just kidding).
We’ve learned a lot.
For instance, when he’s having trouble swallowing, I often serve him a breakfast smoothie — banana and other fresh fruit, oatmeal I prepared ahead of time with milk, Egg Beaters (which are pasteurized) and yogurt or one of his favorite meal-replacement drinks. He loves it.
I can puree an entree that’s giving him trouble, adding broth to make a flavorful soup. Taco soup? Kung pao soup? Fettuccini soup? Pot roast chowder? Sure. Salmon bisque, a la Robin’s restaurant? That’s pure luxury.
When a sandwich proves to be too difficult for him, I make a salad out of the filling — for instance, mincing the turkey, bacon, tomato and lettuce, and adding mayo for a club-sandwich salad. The bread makes softly crisp croutons.
We’ve also learned that drinking plain water can be tricky for someone who has trouble swallowing. So I blended water with a little Sierra Mist soda, which seemed to solve the problem better than those nasty, water-thickening products from the hospital.
(As a bonus, my urologist said I could drink a bit of lemon-lime soda daily to help combat kidney stones. So far, so good.)
We’ve enjoyed occasional Sierra Mist sodas since 2010, when manufacturer PepsiCo went back to sugar in the beverage, ditching the high-fructose corn syrup that we try to avoid.
But that option is gone now, and we’re feeling commercially betrayed. Again.
Don’t you hate when that happens, when a favorite brand disappears or is suddenly very different? It feels as if a friend has moved to Siberia, offline.
I do know that, in the grand scheme of things, with the world in chaos and our politics a mess, this irritation is a tiny, selfish sliver of a problem. It’s just another painful splinter in life’s fickle finger of fate.
But I’m tired of splinters.
Through the years, Sierra Mist’s can had been redesigned several times. When a new design (and name!) showed up on supermarket shelves recently, we assumed it was just another repackaging so PepsiCo’s brand could compete better with Sprite, 7Up and other industry leaders — all of which used that funky-tasting HFCS.
Phooey! The new “Mist Twst” is not only a clunky name to say, it’s a gunky soda to drink — too sticky sweet and phony flavored. It burns my tongue and makes Husband Richard cough.
Turning the new can around, I found out why: The second ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup.
Thanks a lot, PepsiCo. You’ve just made it harder for my husband to swallow the water he’s supposed to be drinking.
But one thing we’ve learned post-stroke is to never give up. Surely there was an option out there somewhere.
So, we took a hint from the wine industry and did a horizontal tasting of lemon-lime sodas. We sampled six different brands three different ways: Straight at room temperature, straight over ice and diluted in three parts water.
Meh. We weren’t impressed, not even with the brew-it-yourself soda machine. We found all of them to be much too sweet and too artificial tasting. They made Husband Richard cough.
For now, we’re using a vastly diluted Sprite. It works, sort of. It, too, has HFCS in it.
But for my ever-patient patient, the taste of Sprite isn’t awful, and that brand doesn’t seem to offend his throat as much as the others do.
We’ll keep searching for a better solution (pun intended).
Any suggestions, gratefully accepted.
Me? I’m drinking lemonade.