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I’ve been reading ‘Recovery’ by Gavin Francis

When I did a stint on an elderly care ward a decade or so ago, it wasn’t uncommon to send older people to a care home or similar seeing for “a period of convalescence.”

I remember discussing this with my consultant supervisor and suggesting that it seemed strange that we did this for elderly patients, but not for younger patients. I reflected on how I thought I’d benefit from a period of convalescence if I were ill, but that the hospital would want me back on the ward as soon as I was capable of maintaining an approximately vertical position.

I’d forgotten all about that conversation until I saw Richard Smith’s review of Recovery, a short book published last year by Edinburgh GP and writer Gavin Francis. His review inspired me to buy the book.

It’s possible that in one of those feedback loops of reading at the moment: Francis references Suzanne O’Sullivan’s It’s All in Your Head which I very recently read, and Denise Riley’s Time Lived, Without its Flow which I read relatively recently.

Francis’s argument in Recovery is that we all need time to convalesce and heal following illness.

The medicine I was trained in often assumes that once a crisis has passed, the body and mind find ways to heal themselves – there’s almost nothing more to be said on the matter. But after nearly twenty years as a GP I’ve often found that the reverse is true: guidance and encouragement through the process of recovery can be indispensable. Odd as it seems, my patients often need to be granted permission to take the time to recover that they need.

This much seems reasonably obvious, even if society pretends to have forgotten it (and certainly doesn’t practise it). Francis argues that we all need time following illness to regain as much independence as we can, and to find a balance in life.

Francis goes on to logically develop his argument, firstly making a case for convalescence even in chronic illness (we still need time to regain independence and balance), and even suggests that we would benefit from sabbaticals every seven years or so to convalescence from work. I think he is probably right.

Francis also talks about the importance of nature to recovery. I was particularly taken by his image of doctor-as-gardener:

A doctor who sets out to ‘heal’ is in truth more like a gardener who sets out to ‘grow’ – actually, nature does almost all of the work. Even when I stitch a patient’s wound the suture material itself does not knit the tissues – that thread is simply a trellis to guide the body in its own work of recovery.

This is well worth reading.

This post was filed under: Health, Post-a-day 2023, What I've Been Reading, .

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