The sanitarium and its usefulness in chronic diseases.
ENOCH MATHER, M.S., M.D., MT. CLEMENS, MICH.
This article is being written with the idea and hope that it may prove an aid in the treatment of chronic diseases to both the practitioner who uses physical therapeutics in his treatment of these bodily ailments and to the physician who uses medicine and diet or rest in helping the afflicted.
Most physicians will agree with me that rest and quietness are two of the most beneficial helps that can be afforded patients suffering from diseases of a chronic nature. To have these two requisites the patients must be removed from their home environment, where their immediate families surround them and needless noise prevails, and where the patients possibly see little home duties staring them in the face which they think need attention, and thus they feel called upon to do work, possibly against their physician's orders, which work might hinder their progress in getting well. It would thus seem quite natural that such patients should be removed from their homes and placed in sanitariums out of the city which are peaceful and of a home-like nature, where the patients can recuperate without the sight of home duties ever beckoning attention or the family or friends visiting.
Of course, it is preferable to all that patients at such institutions can receive attentions that could not possibly be afforded in the privacy of their homes. Both in medical and electro-therapeutic methods of treatment the utmost benefit can only be derived in a sanitarium where a full dispensary of drugs is available and where treatment rooms are provided with a full equipment of electro-therapeutic apparatus. We all know that circumstances sometimes will not permit patients who rightfully ought to be in a sanitarium to be placed in such institutions where they could receive the greatest care. Under such unfortunate circumstances it is the rightful duty of physicians to do all in their power to make the patient as comfortable as possible in his or her own home. This we all try to do, giving the best attention to their ailments while there and leaving medicine for them with instructions how to take it until we can see them again. But while we are away possibly some pain somewhere crops up and the medicine doesn't relieve it, and rhus the poor unfortunate patient has to suffer for want of some trifling advice which the physician could give in just a few moments' time if lie was present. This condition doesn't have to prevail in the sanitarium, as here a nurse or the doctor is always on hand to be consulted when needed. This, as we know, is one of the blessings afforded the sick who are able to recuperate at a sanitarium.
To provide all these comforts, a large dispensary, fully equipped laboratory, small emergency operating room for minor cases, rooms equipped with the latest in electro- and mechano-therapeutic apparatus, plenty of windows affording abundance of sunlight, a large veranda and beautiful grounds laid out in a park with large shade trees, are the fruits of my twelve years of diligent study of the needs of the chronic sufferer at Gray Gables Sanitarium. Above all, I have tried and fully succeeded, from the talks of my patients, in making my sanitarium home-like and far from the appearance of a public institution, and, due to a home-like atmosphere, the patients rest more comfortably and recuperate faster, as they do not have institutional features to constantly see, reminding them why they are there and thus possibly hindering their progress, due to worry. In my mind, one of the most beneficial aids in the recuperation of the sick is to keep their minds off their troubles, and this can only be done by preoccupying their minds with thoughts which are of their liking and keeping them occupied. Constant occupation, either by reading, writing, sewing or outdoor play or exercise of light form is greatly beneficial, and doesn't give the patients time for thought concerning their troubles.
Physical measures have always been and are now becoming more and more an aid in maintaining and regaining health. For instance, our public school systems are seeing the need of instituting in their school systems an educational program of instruction in the proper methods of acquiring and maintaining health. Physical exercise, under proper instruction, is one of the greatest benefits our children can have. What is life without health? Riches are unenjoyable without the health to enjoy wealth. We often hear the expression, "Health before wealth." and nothing is truer.
We find our healthiest people are those who live on plain food and fresh vegetables and an outdoor life. In analyzing why this true, we find. that sunlight, along with fresh air, furnish the requisites which produce this good health in people of an outdoor life. Sunlight, like nothing else, is the greatest requisite of health. It contains the rays of light that promote and stimulate the blood in its action. Certain rays of the many which sunlight possesses are absorbed by the blood, which, in its circulation through the body. carries health to every part of the human system. Due to our limited knowledge, it is rather hard to explain just why sunlight is so beneficial to our bodies. It is well known that the blood absorbs the rays and that the vital processes are vitally and beneficially affected by them. The chemistry of the blood is altered by some of the rays. and then, again, we have an increased activity of the vitamins and a stimulation of the endocrine glands. Thus health cannot really exist without sunlight and proper exercise daily.
Thus we see that people who are unable, due to their vocations of life, to receive the requisite amount of sunlight, must therefore resort to artificial means of obtaining these essential rays of light. We thus find our hospitals and sanitariums of today equipped with great outlays of various lights. In my own practice I have found light therapy an interesting study and of great benefit in my practice. I have a room on each floor of my sanitarium equipped with various lights, among which are the actinic rays, radio-vitant rays, deep-therapy lamp, ultra-violet rays, the solar therapeutic arc lamp, and others, besides mechano-therapeutic apparatus such as the electric vibrator, high frequency current, static machine, the therapeutic traction couch, etc.
How easy it is to be able to tell a man who lives his life in the city from the man who comes from the country. The former has a sallow complexion, sometimes white and pale looking and anemic, especially if he has spent many years of toil at an office desk in a city, while the man from the country, who has lived an outdoor life, has a red, glowing, rugged complexion, with lots of "pep" about his appearance. It is really a pity that our city folks don't take a lesson from their country sisters and brothers and try to spend some time in the fresh air and sunshine instead of spending the time indoors. This, in my estimation, seems to be the seat of evil health which the great majority of city dweller." are bringing upon themselves—too much indoor confinement, thus avoiding fresh air, sunlight and open exercise.
To reiterate somewhat in systematic detail the above, we find the business man or woman rises in the morning, rushes off to work, getting there as the clock strikes the hour fur the day's grind to begin. At noon they go out to lunch in some nearby restaurant and spend the rest of their noonday lunch period undoubtedly indoors, and then resume their day's work. At five or six o'clock they quit the office for home, possibly in a poorly ventilated, crowded street-car, and after arriving home and eating supper they leave for an evening's place of amusement. This is the true summary of the average man or woman of today, and takes place four or five days and nights out of the week. Thus it is seen that very little time is spent in the open air, practically the whole day being spent indoors, the day being divided between the home, place of work, and that of amusement. Very little walking is required in going from one place to the other, as busses or street-cars are at hand to offer conveyance to and from wherever the pedestrian is going, hence little exercise is offered the city people.
It is a pleasure to see the schools, newspapers and magazines taking an active part in trying to instill upon people the need of more of an outdoor life. People who are working all day where artificial lights are used should try to spend' some part of each day out in the sunshine, if it is only a few minutes or half an hour. They should try to let as much sunshine play upon their skin as possible, as ordinary electric lighting cannot take the place of God's sunlight and daylight.
The sanitarium of today tries to teach its guests the proper mode of living, so upon their recuperation they will have a tendency to live along proper lines, thus maintaining the good health received at the sanitarium. Most of our modern architects have a tendency when drawing up plans for homes to include somewhere in their plans a sleeping porch and sun-parlor. These rooms of a home should rank in importance next to that of the kitchen, and should be so situated where the most fresh air and sunlight are attainable.
To summarize a bit, we must remember that to properly recuperate from chronic illness we must have rest and quietness and proper medical attention, Worry must be dispensed with and physical exercise indulged in when permissible and an outdoor life led as much as possible in fresh air and sunlight in the country. Too much time must not be spent indoors and under artificial lighting conditions and in crowded, congested areas. Take, for instance, a child who is brought up in a city with no grounds around the child's home?, nothing but cement walks. You will find this child will become pale and delicate and run-down. Place this child out in the country in the fresh open air, with sand, soil and green grass to play in, and with plenty of wholesome food, preferably fresh vegetables, and soon a healthy glow will come to the cheeks. This goes to show it is the same with the man or woman employed in city life. Give them an open environment, with proper food to eat, and nature will take care of their health.
It has always seemed a pity to me that so many of our splendid hospitals are situated in environments that are congested, sometimes noisy and in some cases where heavy smoke prevails. The growing, ever-changing tendency of neighborhoods of cities often make distasteful the sites of our fine hospitals. Great advantages are afforded the sanitariums which are built in smaller cities or towns with more grounds for walks and outdoor amusements and where fresh air and sunlight can be had. Thus greater advantages for recuperation in the lines above mentioned—those of rest, fresh air, outdoor amusements, etc.—can be procured in the sanitarium situated in the country or small city than in the large cities, and the conditions afforded in the sanitarium with large lawns, etc., surrounding it are preferred by patients recuperating from long illnesses.
To close, let me advocate that we all try to instill in our patients that they live a more outdoor life, and that they live more on vegetables and fruits of the land.
National Eclectic Medical Association Quarterly, Vol. 19, 1927-28, was edited by Theodore Davis Adlerman, M.D.