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What I Would Offer at My Dream 'Spoonie-Friendly' Restaurant

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This week I went out for a meal for my son as it was his special birthday. The night was perfect. The restaurant is a simple local family favorite for soirees of this sort.

Before I was ill I would just select a restaurant for their food and service. I now need so much more from a place than just a full happy tummy and a smile from staff.

With illness, a buzzing social life is not really feasible. I have in many ways become a hermit, I won’t deny it. A party to me is a bowl of sweets and a good Netflix lineup on Saturday night with a blanket and a boy to snuggle.

It is so lovely though to wear a nice frock and be out, but the thought of sitting at a table for three hours leaves me in distress as it is so painful.

After a day of nursing my sore back and exhaustion, it left me thinking of ways to make restaurants more spoonie-friendly.

I refuse to do an open letter as there are enough “Dear him,” “Dear you,” “Dear her over there” open letters to keep Postman Pat in business for life.

Instead I am doing a “My dream chronic illness restaurant” in hopes that anyone who owns a restaurant may read it and think, What a clever thing to know, I will add some of these implementations to my place.

Birthday meals are something to enjoy to the maximum. They are special times when we sit around as a family and share laughter, food and a bottle of fizzy pop (Prosecco). I love getting dressed up pretty and being together, but my back always lets me down and I often think our family times like this turn into the Vanessa show.

If I owned a restaurant I would want to make it the best eatery in the world for chronic illness people. These are the people within society who don’t get out much, so why not make their experience magical?

Here is what I would have in my chronic illness restaurant:

1. We offer a specialist booking service to accommodate individual needs. Simple things like knowing prior to arrival that extra space would be needed to accommodate a wheelchair to avoid the drama in front of our guests, special eating requirements, etc.

2. We have a quiet room for people with sensory overload. Guests could reserve this location and have the noise from music and other guests to a minimum. 

3. Guests with migraine could have a selection of lighting options. No bright lights or flickering, no fluorescent lighting.

4. We offer a Goldilocks chair service. Every guest needs a chair that is just right for them. Seating offers mixed comfort; chairs with adapted lumbar support could be offered. We have cushions available for added comfort.

5. We offer well-ventilated eating areas as many guests have problems with hot and cold flushes. 

6. There is an option to have food served on a deep-edge plate, a suction bottom on the plate, adapted cutlery, cups, etc.

7. If you they need the meal in smaller pieces for independent eating, we will do this in the kitchens before serving. 

8. Special diets are not a problem; we will tailor our menu to accommodate.

9. We offer gluten-free bread.

10. We offer a variety of  dairy-free alternatives.

11. We offer a hot water bottle service. If you need staff to boil a kettle to reheat your hot water bottle for your back, no problem.

12. We have the menu in large print for the ease of reading and also a plain, no-fuss version in black ink on white or blue background.

13. Our toilets are stocked with vending machines for incontinence pads.

14. All our meals come in regular and smaller portion sizes.

15. We have mugs of tea available for the non-alcoholic drinkers.

16. We sell heat patches at the bar.

Wouldn’t this be wonderful?

If you can think of any more things that would be useful to us folk, please let me know.

My night could have been so much less painful with simple additions. I was lucky as my sister found me a better chair and my niece found me a cushion so this helped a great deal. Prior to this I stood in the bathroom after an hour and could have cried. If anyone had watched me they would have thought I was in labor. That is what it feels like — the horrendous back pain you get during labor of a child.

Even with the chair and cushion I was thankful to get back home and get some relief. 

There is no place like home.

Follow this journey on The Girl With the Five Lads.

Originally published: July 8, 2016
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