Convalescence is the time it takes to recover from an illness, injury, surgery or other medical treatment; the gradual return to health and strength – this period between not being sick anymore but also not back to 100%. (Healing appears to be the physical aspect of convalescence – the repair of tissue and the biological system back to normal functioning. What would we be without definitions.)
Convalescence these days is associated with staying at home, maybe in bed for a while, resting, eating nourishing food, reading or overindulging in watching TV. (Erm … shouldn’t I, strictly speaking, still be recovering …? See day 48 of this blog.)
Winding back the clock, to a time when medical treatment and health consciousness were still in their infancy but nevertheless a strong presence: staying at home would have been everything but healthy and supportive of getting better. That’s when, from sometime in the 18th century, convalescent homes came into being. It was fully accepted by the medical profession that ill people needed to be cared for in a particular way in order for their health to be fully restored. This did not merely involve rest, nourishment and reprieve from work – it required a specific location for this to happen. The vast majority of convalescent homes were therefore established in the countryside or in seaside towns.
The need for such homes further increased periodically, for example following outbreaks of tuberculosis and, of course, after the wars.
In Germany, there are special recuperation homes for children and many where mothers (or fathers) and children can recuperate together.
Times have changed, however.
Home is generally considered a much safer place. I’m not so sure about the adequate treatment though. The number of days for which patients are kept in hospital before being discharged home has been steadily declining for decades. Hospitals generally ask whether somebody is around for 24 hours after being discharged – but what is that friend or family member supposed to do? What is he or she supposed to watch out for?
Being discharged early certainly means reduced exposure to potentially lethal hospital bugs. But is it really all positive?
A 2013 study from Boston University School of Public Health published in the journal Medical Care Research & Review found that for heart patients, even a 1-day increase in length of stay yielded estimated reductions in later hospital readmission rates.
Certainly somebody can do the maths …
I was in and out of hospital in half a day – with next to no instructions as to how exactly I ought to convalesce. I was given a 24-hour emergency telephone number (very reassuring …) and painkillers. And I was told not to drive or sign any contracts for 24 hours. But no advice on nutrition. No advice on periods of resting or how and when I should resume physical activity. When the pain would subside. How long I should stay off work.
Now, I wasn’t treated for tuberculosis, I’m glad to say. So there was certainly no need to send me away (convalescent homes – or hospitals – still exist, not just in the UK). But I had surgical treatment under general anesthetic. Ah well.
So I decided for myself how long to stay at home (a day and a half) and when to join my boot camp again – today. Though I’ll skip the next two days now. Lacking instructions from the medical profession, I will listen to my body.