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Update January 3, 2014:  Five days after his heart surgery, which wound up being a quintuple bypass, we interviewed Leon in his hospital room.  Hear for yourself how energetic he's feeling - and how he's already setting the pace for walking a mile a day around the recovery ward. This interview aired on our East County Magazine Show on KNSJ Radio:  http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/1x5gj5h5h7/Leon-HospitalInterviewPost-Surgery.mp3

Editor’s Note:  We send warm wishes for a speedy recovery to Leon Thompson, our “East County Eater.”  If you were at our holiday party, you'll recall Leon gleefully carving up the prime rib.  Tomorrow, Leon is undergoing triple bypass surgery, or as he calls it, “the trifecta.”   Undaunted, he asked us to post this message for our readers—including his witty review of hospital food, along with his New Year’s resolution for healthy dining—and a special request for our readers.

By Leon Thompson, a.k.a. the East County Eater

December 26, 2013 (La Mesa)--This is Leon Thompson, otherwise known as the East County Eater to readers of East County Magazine. Today I’m reporting from Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa.  My lifetime of savoring great foods, along with a family history of coronary artery disease, has finally caught up with me.  So I’ll be undergoing triple bypass surgery Friday morning—split down the middle like an oyster, with some fancy rerouting of my plumbing by the cardiac surgeon, and then I’ll be trussed up like a holiday turkey, with a few weeks to marinate before I’m back on the beat.

So by the time you hear this broadcast, hopefully I’ll have a healthy heart just in time for the New Year.

But first, I’ve decided to review the culinary offerings here at  Grossmont Hospital, where I must say the staff’s service has been superb.  For all we hear about problems with our healthcare system, the nurses , doctors and yes, the nutritionist here have been wonderfully attentive!

If you must be in the hospital, it turns out Christmas is a pretty good time to be here.  I’ve been served up turkey and dressing with all—well, most of the trimmings, though I had to make do with heart-healthy salad, fruit or instead of yams drenched in brown sugar, and I’ll be toasting in the New Year with non-alcoholic Seltzer water instead of the customary champagne. 

Other entrees have included comfort foods such as meat loaf and when I asked fish-they obligingly brought grilled tilapia.  I also give high marks for presentation –my meals came served up with a purple orchid on the plate.  Since I once lived in Hawaii, I appreciated this simple yet elegant touch!

My visitors tell me the cafeteria food has been hearty and affordable, including meatless Fridays with entrees such as a baked eggplant dish and quiche.  Seven days a week you can get salads, soups, sandwiches and hot grilled entrees, all for just a few dollars.

Now here’s another hint: If you’re visiting someone in for the long term, you can get a weekly parking pass for $15 and avoid breaking the bank at the parking garage.

I look forward to getting back on my feet in the near future – and when I do, I’ll be making a few changes.  Watch for the East County Eater on a mission to discover the most heart-healthy dishes at restaurants in East County!   Readers, if you know of an eatery in East County serving up some delicious heart-healthy cuisine, please send your tips to editor@eastcountymagazine.org.

Life’s an adventure – and the East County Eater is eager to be back on the prowl soon!

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Leon's doing great!

Though he wound up making the surgeon work harder as it turned out to be a quintuple bypass, not a triple.   He's out of ICU but will be in the hospital a few more days, already up walking, eating, and asking for a microphone to do some recording for our radio show.

Thanks to all who called/visited - he has really appreciated all who helped brightened his stay there.  He is especially enjoying the tablet computer that many of us pitched in to get for him, replacing one that broke just before his hospitalization. 

He had been in denial for a long time about really needing this done, until he finally felt like an elephant was sitting on his chest.  Ariele gave him an article about Bill Clinton's quadruple bypass and the light bulb finally went on that you can have an active, quality life after bypass.  WE're all amazed at how fast he's rebounding -- if anyone out there has been putting off having this procedure done talk to Leon!

I also have to praise Grossmont Hospital for having a fabulous cardiac care faciltiy - the night before surgery they put you in a penthouse suite with ocean view, and all the nurses and doctors have treated both patients and family/visitors with care and consideration.