Recently I have been reading “God’s Hotel” by Victoria Sweet. It is a book about the last almshouse in America, Laguna Honda hospital in San Francisco. In it she describes how the house of recovery is slowly transformed into a 21st century machine prided for its efficiency. Efficiency has its toll. Prior to its transformation into the current medical institution doctors had time to sit with their patients, to observe, to provide wholesome food, pleasant surroundings and a clean environment. These are all things that help people heal but are not considered efficient and in the name of budget constraints are cut out altogether. There are now early discharges, sterile environments, meals prepared in large quantities. Nourishment is considered fuel.
I liken the hospital in its original almshouse form to a garden. As many of you know I love to garden and am planning out my vegetable garden for the upcoming year. Prior to putting out the seeds the soil has to be prepared. The temperature has to be right, the weeds need to be pulled, the soil has to be restored with nutrients. Then there is the planning of what to plant. In what order. Peas, Swiss chard, radishes, kale in the cooler months. Starting some seedlings indoors so they will be ready to plant in the summer months. Which plants survive in the spring, summer, fall and winter? How much to water and when. How much light does each plant need. Everyday I visit the garden to see if there are diseases on the plants. Are there predators or harmful bugs, how do I protect my harvest? What will keep the plants their healthiest, to grow the most fruit, to bring out their best.
I tend to think of my patients similarly to my garden. Each one needs to be tended to each one’s special needs. There is a lot of information to process but if given the time growth and healing will take place. Individuals need to be tended to, even when not requiring treatment, similar to the garden. Life will carry on but truly flourishes when it is tended to.