By Tom Unfried
So there we were in the fall of 1995, back at the hospital just a short time after our son Christian had been released after months of treatment for a bone marrow transplant. Complaining of severe pain in his abdomen, we knew the drill: get him to Children’s Hospital of Orange County immediately. To make matters worse, the admitting nurse was quite clear that she assumed my wife and I had not properly followed the detailed instructions we received prior to his release to our care.
You see the purpose of a bone marrow transplant is to kill off one’s cancer-filled bone marrow and replace it with donated cancer-free bone marrow. During this process the immune system is destroyed, making the patient’s incredibly vulnerable to even the slightest infection. Prior to his release we received extensive instruction regarding cleanliness, diet, and particularly leftovers.
When the nurse walked in with the results from blood cultures she had taken, the scene played out like an episode of House M.D. She triumphantly announced that the cultures had come back positive for a bacterium that grows on cooked/leftover pork. In her mind we had deliberately fed our son leftovers and lied to the hospital about it.
Only the parents of adolescents will understand the mixed emotions of relief and outrage after discovering that their teenager has engaged in some needlessly reckless and life-threatening behavior. As our jaws dropped incredulously, our son sheepishly admitted that he had gotten up in the middle of the night and snuck a few bites from the leftovers of his favorite meal.
Your experience of this story about bone marrow, leftover pork, and cranky nurses may so far seem like listening to the iconic holiday song, “Christmas Shoes” – that is a random retelling of some sob story that manages to bring everyone down for the holidays. And well, it is. You see, while Christian survived that tussle with the pesky bacterium, he ultimately succumbed to the cancer he had fought for so long on New Year’s Eve 1998. For my wife and I this time of advent and Christmas is a bittersweet time spent at least in part reflecting on what both was and will never be.
Advent is a season of waiting that commemorates the first coming of Christ while anticipating his second coming, after which all pain and suffering will cease. One possible way to honor Christ’s advent is to remember that people all around experience pain and suffering particularly during the holiday season. Not everyone is able to easily join in the joy of celebrating Christ’s birth. I encourage you to extend grace to that cranky shopper or rude driver.
4 Pork shoulder steaks, approximately two pounds
I package of Lipton’s Onion Soup mix per four steaks
Worcestershire Sauce to cover steaks
Cook two steaks per pan. Sprinkle even amount of soup mix over each steak. Add Worcestershire sauce to cover. Cook on full heat until Worcestershire Sauce boils, then reduce heat to medium and cover. Check occasionally to make sure steaks are covered with liquid. Add water as sauce reduces while cooking. Cook approximately 45 minutes, or until internal temperature is 160°.
Along with any combination of vegetables, herb and butter noodles are a perfect complement to this dish.