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Source: Papers On Health
In every person there is a certain amount only of force which is
available for living. Also this force, or vitality, is produced at
only a certain definite rate. Where the rate is very low, only perfect
quiet in bed for a time can bring down the expenditure far enough to
enable the vital force gradually to accumulate, and a cure to be
effected. Sitting, in such cases, may be serious overwork.
When rest is ordered, we are often met by the reply that it is
impossible, as work cannot be given up. It is, however, often possible
to get a great deal more than is taken. Every spare moment should be
spent lying down in the most restful position. It is an important
element in nursing to give such a comfortable recumbent position to a
patient as constitutes perfect rest, and the nurse who does so, does a
great deal to cure.
There is with many a prejudice against rest. It is somehow believed
that it is a weakening thing to lie still in bed. "You must get up and
take exercise, and enjoy the fresh air." This is a very good order for
a person who has the strength for bracing exercise and fresh air. But
this is absent in a person truly ill. That person's vital force is low,
and the organs that supply it are feeble in their action. The fresh air
may enter the chest, but the lungs are not in a state to make good use
of it. "Exercise and fresh air" only consume the sufferer. On the
contrary, rest and fresh air allow the weak vital force to recruit. The
sort of exercise which is wanted in such cases is given by others in
massaging or such squeezing the muscles as stimulates the organic
nerves without using vital force in the sufferer. We have repeatedly
succeeded in giving new strength by some weeks in bed, when it could
not have been given otherwise. It is all very well for a young, strong
person, only a very little out of sorts, to take a cold sitz-bath for
ten minutes, and then a walk of a mile or two in mountain or seashore
air. But this treatment would be death to one really ill. Perfect rest
in bed, with an abundant supply of air through windows open night and
day, would save the life which such "exercise and air" would send out
of the world. It requires only a little common sense to see this. "He
must be weakened by lying in bed so long." There is no such "must" in
the nature of things. On the contrary, it may be absolutely necessary
to his getting strength that he should lie still for weeks on end. You
may, no doubt, give us instances in which a person was compelled to get
up, and was thereby made to lose the delusion that he was not able to
do so; but such instances in any number will not make one strong who is
actually weak. Make sure first that vital energy is supplied, and when
that supply rises to a certain degree it will not be easy to keep your
patient in bed.
We would also note that true rest can never be had in a forced
position. A limb bound down is not resting. The agonising desire to
change its position shows this. True rest is found always in freedom
and ease. It may be necessary to put splints on a limb, but it must
never be done where rest is aimed at. Usually there is a position of
comfort to be found. Let the patient find and keep that. He will then
For instance, an exhausted patient is lying at full length in bed, but
under the waist there is a hollow which is bridged over by the back.
This part of the back calls for a considerable amount of force to hold
it over this hollow, but we get a pillow inserted under the back, the
muscles relax, and the patient rests. In packing and fomenting an
inflamed knee, for example, it is usually better done in a slightly
bent position, which is more restful than a straight one. Employ two
or three small pillows to prop it comfortably. And so on, in multitudes
of cases, the earnest healer will be guided by the patient's own
restful feelings. See also Noise; Veins.
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