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Convalescence

CHAPTER XXX

   The advantages and superiority of Hygienic care over drug treatment are shown as much by the rapid convalescence as by the speed of recovery. Proper care of the invalid is Hygienic care and calls for no resort to drugging or forcing measures. Any attempt to hasten convalescence by forcing measures will only delay full recovery.

   Dr. Susanna W. Dodds tells us that, in lectures before his classes in the college, Trall repeatedly cautioned his students against overtaxing their patients. Again and again, she says, he warned them against making extra demands upon the energy and resources of their patients when there was no need for such demands. He insisted that the energy of the patient be conserved in every way possible and extended this to the period of convalescence. For example, Dodds tells us, employing typhoid fever as an illustration, that Trall emphasized that in convalescence there is little or no need for "treatment." When the crisis is passed in all acute diseases, even if there should be a slight recurrence of fever, he would slacken or discontinue even the little treatment, in the form of hydropathic applications, that he employed.

   Conservation of the energy and resources of the patient was the secret of the successes of Jennings, Walter, Tilden, Weger and others who have been so outstandingly successful in their care of the sick. None of these men sought to cure disease; rather, each. of them recognized that over feeding, over bathing, over sunning, over exercising and aggravating patients in any way overtaxed them and retarded or prevented recovery.

   "Many a patient," Dodds quotes Trall as saying, "has been killed by giving treatment that was too heroic after the critical action had passed." He insisted that "no extra demand upon the patient" be made during the post-critical stage. She adds that he applied this same rule of conservation to all feeble people, whether well or ill, reminding his students again and again that the only capital they had to work with was the vitality of the patient and to waste this was to diminish the chances of recovery. No part of the patient's organism was ever to be taxed.

   Sickness is a virtual surrender of individuality; but what a beautiful, instinctive trait of human nature it is which causes the strong and well to serve every whim of the invalid who no longer has power to enforce a preference, but whose will--if he has any--is regarded as a hundred fold more imperative, now that he is helpless, than it was when he had strength to command. We will seek to find what a sick person wants, though we may be indifferent to his wishes in health. This willingness to cater to the whims as well as to the actual needs of the sick, commendable though it is, is a source of danger.

   On the other hand, those nurses who neglect their charges and who take every opportunity to gossip outside the sick room, or when within it, of telling long irrelevant stories to any visitor whom they can catch as a listener, may do their patients as much injury by their careless neglect as others may do by pampering them.

   Returning health is a rose beset with prickles. Its thorns prick and sting. The convalescent is tired before he has done more than sit up--he is disgusted with clothing; he shrinks before his own sallow sunken visage in the mirror. It is a trial to get his hair properly arranged. He is likely to want everything that he is forbidden to eat and to care nothing for those foods that are allowed. It is essential that he not be permitted to overdo his activity or his eating.

   When one has just escaped from the throes of great pain, it is not difficult just to lie still and be waited upon. It is so nice that everybody wants to do something for you. You have only to lie still and sleep and have everything brought to you. Indeed, if you make an effort to burst the bonds of invalidism and promote yourself to the status of convalescence and do things for yourself, you are likely to be urged not to do so. There is a tendency towards too much pampering of the convalescent. Care should always be exercised not to over pamper him.

   It is important that the person who is recovering health, but who has passed the stage in which he stays in bed, should lie down in the day time, preferably after the noon meal and have an hour or more of rest and, perhaps, sleep. It is well to sleep at this time. The vigorous man may go all day without rest and he may diversify his activities so that he does not become fatigued; but the weak man, recovering from illness, is not capable of such continuous activity. It is our conviction that no human being, however strong and vigorous, should be forced to engage in physical activity, unless it be of the least taxing kind, for more than three, perhaps four hours without rest. If this is physiologically true of the healthy and vigorous, it certainly becomes imperative that the weak and sick secure rest, even more rest, than is commonly secured by this class of individuals. Many convalescents work so hard at recovery that they keep themselves enervated.

   Watching the green waves of verdure in the distance, it is easy to forget that there is anything wrong with you. The clumps of trees, the fields white with daisies, the lovely garden plots before rustic homessurely a tramp amid such inviting beauties would be better than to lie in bed! How inviting the prospect and how desirable when sufficient strength is present! But the invalid, convalescing from a serious illness, should make haste slowly.

   Eating should be of the most wholesome food, but the invalid should eat lightly. Heavy overeating, eating of concentrated foods, frequent eating and other such practices in the hope that one can gain weight and strength rapidly is very unwise. The digestive system is not in condition to properly process such meals. One should be content to take it easy and take time to evolve into a state of normal health.

   Do not force exercise. Avoid exposure to extremes of heat and cold. Retire early and sleep late. Conserve the invalid's energies in every way possible. Forcing measures will only retard recovery. It will be possible to increase his activities as strength and endurance increase, but it is important to avoid fatiguing him.

 


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