Friday, January 30, 2015

Slow, Green Medicine

God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of MedicineGod's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Victoria Sweet

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

God’s Hotel is a medical memoir in the spirit of Oliver Sacks. Victoria Sweet tells her experience at the last almshouse in the United States, Laguna Honda in San Francisco, for the last years of its life. Laguna Honda was the step after the County Hospital: extended care and rehab for the homeless, the poor, and the terminal.

It was the place where young Dr. Sweet, fascinated with the medieval model of health care and Hildegard of Bingen, was privileged to work while getting her PhD in the history of medicine. It was the place that she learned that time and caring are the best healers and that patients are teachers.

I enjoyed the compare/contrast strategy and Dr. Sweet’s longing to combine the best of modern medicine with the best of folk medicine—as she says, to bring in Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merryman. I enjoyed the stories of the patients, Dr. Sweet’s special teachers on her journey. I was afraid, at the beginning of the book, that I was going to end up angry and depressed at the end, but I ended up infected with Dr. Sweet’s own hope: that the slow but strong natural tendency for health running in all living things will make everything all right in the end.

Highly recommended.

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