When the Sick Were Expected to Rest When Ill or Broken

“We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion which is truly the spirit of God.” —Saint Vincent de Paul

I have a close friend who recently was in surgery to have a shoulder torn apart and reassembled in order for a painful condition to be alleviated, or, hopefully, fixed.

The surgery is of course a serious procedure and doubtless the surgeons are competent experts who have much experience with just this sort of diagnosing and repairing. In fact it is considered routine “day surgery” today.

So, after being anesthetized, cut, gnawed, sawed and reassembled, the patient will be be awakened and shipped home. Sometimes hours later. Just like going to a Burger King drive-through; and then expected to get back to work pretty quick, sling, painkillers and all.

Alas, not very long ago the sick were expected to rest in hospital as they convalesce. Rest. Really rest after being disassembled in blood, muscle and cartilage, and reassembled. It was thought not only important to observe the patient for any signs of complications, infections especially among them, but also necessary for the patient to regain emotional equilibrium after such an intrusive, tearing ordeal. Emotional recovery. Yes. Because a considerable amount of fear often accompanies any serious surgery. Especially (but not only) if it is the first surgery one has experienced.

Moreover, for a few days at least it was thought necessary for the patient to be waited on, assisted, even pampered a little and walked up and down halls to ensure against blood clot development as recovery is begun. I remember when in my youth I was an Orderly in a Catholic hospital we were expected every night to make the rounds, even offering all male patients back rubs! Imagine.

That was before the HMO’s chucked out compassion and the human touch for mere profits. Today all of that is considered unquantifiable in terms of “labor” costs and the Bottom Line. Patient (read: profitable bed) turnover with its more lucrative up-front costs are what count today to the usually out-of-town Board of Directors who run these new in-and-out meat factories.

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