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Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Day in the Life

6:23 AM Posted by Tiffany Taft , ,
Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Made my way downstairs and
Drank a cup...
(The Beatles)

Except yesterday was a rather large cup of hypoallergenic formula, which I committed to drink for 1 day in lieu of food as part of the annual Eat Like Us challenge for EGID awareness.

I'm ready.  Let's do this.  I asked some reliable sources and found out that for my gender and weight, I'd need to drink about 64 oz of formula to get adequate calories for the day.

When I saw clients at Northwestern, I met with a woman who had to go on an all-formula diet for several weeks.  We talked about how hard this was and I remember her saying "I was able to get about 20 ounces down today."  I never really understood what that meant until yesterday.  For my experience, I opted for Alimentum baby formula, which isn't exactly what people with EGIDs typically use, but is similar.

Here are the highlights from my day in the life:

[7:30 a.m.] I left my house for a long day seeing clients as part of a contracting gig I have where I go out to nursing homes in the Chicago suburbs.  So no sitting in my own office.  Today I needed to be in public.  I was also going to 2 new sites where I hadn't been before, so I didn't know anyone.  I head to Walgreens down the road from my house to get the formula, fully intending to get the pre-mixed liquid rather than the powder because, in my mind, the liquid must be somewhat easier to drink.  Unfortunately they only had the powder.  Disappointed, I got in my car and headed west and tried to remember what stores carried the liquid.

[8:15 a.m.] I opt for a CVS down the road from where I need to be at 8:30 but they too only carry the powder.  Running out of time, and my stomach growling, I grab a can of powder, a big bottle of water, and a 32 oz. plastic bottle to mix the formula in.  The dread has begun to set in.

I love the smell of Alimentum in the morning.
[8:20 a.m.] Sitting in my car, I put 15 scoops of formula in the container (1 scoop for every 2 oz of water), fill it with H2O, and shake in a futile attempt to get all of the powder to dissolve.  I open the flip-top lid and the smell wafts out into my nose.  At first, I try drinking with a straw to avoid the formula chunks but it's excruciatingly slow.  I ditch the straw after a few gulps and decide to drink it as quickly as possible.  Think a frat guy shotgunning a can of MGD.

I get in about 24 oz of formula and sit for a minute, eyes closed, hand to mouth, processing what I just consumed.  I spot a piece of Wrigley's spearmint gum, read the label to make sure it's EGID-safe, and pop it in my mouth to try to get rid of the taste, which I can only describe as being like musty corn.

A picture's worth 1,000 words.
[8:27 a.m.]  I pull out of the CVS parking lot and experience my first "formula burp."  I'd been warned about this phenomenon, and it did not disappoint in it's gross factor.  These continued throughout the morning.

[8:35 a.m.]  I arrive at my destination and think about if I bring in my formula container to try to get more down and wonder how the people at the center will perceive me.  I think about my options to explain why I'm drinking baby formula.  I can tell them the real reason, to spread awareness about EGIDs, but that feels like an easy way out compared to what a person not doing this just for a day may experience.  I decide to bring the bottle in with me, but I can't help feel a bit of shame and worry that I'll be thought of as "weird."

[12:45 p.m.]  It's time for me to go to the next center for the day.  Formula burps have subsided for the past hour or so, and I'm hungry.  But I'm dreading drinking the next batch of formula.  I'm sorry to admit I never took out the bottle to drink while I was there.  I go back to my car and decide to drive to the next place before making the next batch.  During my 30 minute drive, I notice how acutely aware I've become of restaurants.  It's like I see every. single. sign.  I pass a pizza place and can literally taste and smell the pizza.  Even White Castle, reserved only for meals after a night of too much drinking, seems oddly appealing to me. I also become acutely aware of how many restaurants there are.  They're everywhere.  It's like they were gremlins who got wet and bred.  I'm pretty sure I passed 67,000 Taco Bells on my 15 mile excursion, and was painfully aware of the recurring thought "You can't have any of that."

May or may not be actual road.
[1:15 p.m.]  I arrive at the next center, park my car, and whip up the next batch of formula.  I've been dreading this all morning.  I don't shake it long enough and when I take the first few sips I'm greeted by some rather large chunks of mushy powder that I spit back into the bottle.  Regrouping after giving it a few more shakes, I drink another 24 oz or so.  This time, I'm out of gum.  I look around my car for something to kill the taste and there's nothing to be had.  I actually considered licking some chocolate off an old protein bar wrapper in the compartment of my door.  The sad thing is the only thing that kept me from going that low in life was that I knew it wasn't EGID-friendly.  I gain my composure and walk into the center to see my last clients of the day.  Thankfully the formula burps weren't as frequent this round.

I considered burning the container.
[4:00 p.m.]  I get in my car to head home for the day and look at the can of formula with sheer disgust.  I'm thankful that I only have a few more hours of this and on my drive home reflect on what it must be like to not have that option.

[4:45 p.m.]  I get home and decide I can't drink any more formula.  That 48 oz will have to do, and think of my old client.  This is what she meant.  I would rather be hungry than drink another drop of formula.  I switch to water for the rest of the day, and watch my husband and daughter have dinner, trying not to feel bitter.

Later on, I was talking to my husband about the experience, especially those formula burps which serve as a disgusting reminder of what my diet was.  When we were in Japan in 2007, we went to a Thai festival and had durian.  You may have heard of this fruit, which is thought to be one of the worst smelling things on the planet.

Smells like raw sewage, rotten onions, or "smelly rocks."  Who wants some?
My friends and I felt like we had to try it, because we're stupid.  It actually doesn't taste too bad.  Being naive Americans, we were having beer with our durian and a nice Japanese man approached us with a warning that drinking beer with durian would cause "fire" in our stomachs.  We assumed he meant heartburn and shrugged it off.  What this nice man meant was we would get durian burps, and these burps wouldn't be like the taste of the fruit but its smell.

I'm still trying to figure out which is worse, formula or durian burps.

This morning I was able to resume my regular diet, yet I can still vaguely taste the formula every once and a while.  I know how fortunate I am that my day in the life was only a day, and that kids and adults living with EGIDs who must use formula for their nutrition don't have this luxury.  And how this must affect their mental well-being, especially in the beginning.  I'm glad I did this, as I have an even deeper appreciation for their experiences. It's not something I'll be forgetting any time soon.

Best,
Dr. T.