Almond Banana Smoothie Bowl

In residency, a “while cloud” is someone who brings good luck to work – patients always get better, call days are never capped, and workflow goes smoothly. A “black cloud” is one who meets angry nurses, has terrible call days, patients keep crashing, and has general bad luck all around. These are all self perceived of course, but residents are superstitious folk.

I was a white cloud on MICU. No code blues for the whole team and no deaths on my side for my whole month …  except for one, on my very last day.

Almond Banana Smoothie Bowl | Obsessive Cooking Disorder

Mr. M was the first patient I pre-rounded in my first day of MICU, and he passed on my very last day.

A young man in his late 40s with the bad luck of progressing heart and lung failure by genetics, his mind was completely untouched as he was dying. Right up to the end, he could sketch in his art book, surf on his iphone, and stroll about the unit, hooked up to life sustaining machines and medications.

Almond Banana Smoothie Bowl | Obsessive Cooking Disorder
He “felt great” despite his illness – asymptomatic, except for occasional shortness of breath. Over the month, I got to know him and his lovely family, who were full of hope he’d get out despite many dismal goals of care discussions. 
He looked astonishingly well, but his oxygen support requirements and heart tests told us otherwise; he was tied to the ICU with 3 pressors to maintain his shock and fully depending on his oxygen mask, unable to be off more than 30 seconds without fainting. He could never leave the ICU. 
And there comes a point where ‘life’ is no life at all, but how do you tell a dying young man who doesn’t feel like he’s dying at all that it’s his time? 
Almond Banana Smoothie Bowl | Obsessive Cooking Disorder
Normally I talk to the family of dying patients about letting the patient pass away; but it’s rare to talk to those dying themselves that it’s time for you to let go. I can’t imagine more stressful decision in one’s life – when are you ready for death? – with your family waiting for your answer. 
Several hours later, while I was in another patient’s family meeting discussing hospice care, I was paged multiple times in a row by Mr. M’s nurse requesting me to come urgently. After our discussion on his life that morning, Mr. M had chosen “it was time,”; his family and friends had come and gathered around him. His father insisted the we take a photo together on his ipad, and I stood next to his bed smiling in one of his last pictures. 
Once the oxygen was off, he quickly passed peacefully.
And while it was truly for the best, it was a poignant feeling to pronounce my first death as a doctor on someone whom I had grown so attached to. Through her own tears, his sister joked, “Doctors aren’t supposed to cry,” but I couldn’t help it. It was so final to sign the official death certificate, when I had just sketched his in artbook with him a few days prior.
Almond Banana Smoothie Bowl | Obsessive Cooking Disorder

While I did enjoy MICU and matured a lot as a doctor, it was a demanding rotation – mentally, physically, and emotionally – and I’m relieved to be done and have some time to recharge. I’m sharing this Almond Banana Smoothie Bowl recipe – something quick, easy, and beautiful to prepare when you (or someone else) needs a quick pick me up.

Almond Banana Smoothie Bowl

2 small ripe bananas, frozen
2 cups almond milk
1 cup ice
1/2 cup roasted almonds
toppings: blueberries, cacao nibs, banana slices, almonds

Cut the frozen bananas into thirds to make blending easier. In a blender, blend the bananas, almond milk, ice, and almonds until smooth. Adjust ingredient ratio to desired consistency.

Pour your almond banana smoothie into a small bowl. Top with blueberries, cacao nibs, banana slices, almonds. Enjoy!

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  1. The ICU is such a tough place, especially when a young and mentally sharp patient passes away. Makes life seems so cruel. Hope you feel better, sounds like you were a wonderful addition to his journey. Yummy smoothie, I have not tried cacao nibs, but heard they are healthier than chocolate chips!

  2. I never wanted to be a doctor for fear that I would have to watch someone die. You are so brave and caring! On the high note, that smoothie bowl looks absolutely delicious. I am looking forward to trying it out!

  3. Oh dear. When you shared that little snippet on IG I didn't realize he was so young 🙁 You have a hard job there hun, but continue to be a white cloud! And yes, this smoothie bowl is just the thing to make you feel better (I hope you do!)

  4. how heartbreaking. i'm not sure i could endure it and i appreciate you for taking it on!
    what a simple yet flavorful dish. awfully pretty too!

  5. A lovely post and a beautiful smoothie bowl. Most of us docs remember the first time we had to pronounce a patient. For me, it was a patient in the ER whom I had never met before. You had the good fortune of having a relationship with your patient, although in the end, that surely made it so much tougher. Residency is a roller coaster ride but hopefully your white cloud days will far outnumber the black ones 🙂