God's hotel A doctor, a hospital, and a pilgrimage to the heart of medicine

Victoria Sweet

Book - 2012

"San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital is the last almshouse in the country, a descendant of the Hotel-Dieu (God's Hotel) that cared for the sick in the Middle Ages. Ballet dancers and rock musicians, professors and thieves--"anyone who had fallen, or, often, leapt, onto hard times" and needed extended medical care-ended up here. So did Victoria Sweet, who came for two months and stayed for twenty years. Laguna Honda, lower tech but human paced, gave Sweet the opportunit...y to practice a kind of attentive medicine that has almost vanished. Gradually, the place transformed the way she understood her work. Alongside the modern view of the body as a machine to be fixed, her extraordinary patients evoked an older idea, of the body as a garden to be tended. God's Hotel tells their story and the story of the hospital itself, which, as efficiency experts, politicians, and architects descended, determined to turn it into a modern "health care facility," revealed its own surprising truths about the essence, cost, and value of caring for body and soul"--Provided by publisher.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Riverhead Books 2012.
Language
English
Physical Description
372 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
ISBN
9781594486548
9781594488436
1594488436
Main Author
Victoria Sweet (-)
  • First years
  • The love of her life
  • The visit of Dee and Tee, health-care efficiency experts
  • The miraculous healing of Terry Becker
  • Slow medicine
  • Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merryman
  • Dancing to the tune of Glenn Miller
  • Wedding at Cana
  • How I fell in love
  • It's a wonderful country
  • Recalled to life
  • The spirit of God's hotel.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Medical doctor Sweet's search for a position that would allow her to practice while earning a doctorate in the history of medicine brought her to Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, the last almshouse for the poor and chronically disabled in America. "Old-fashioned and plain," dilapidated and imperiled, its six spacious, many-windowed wings housing 1,178 patients were surrounded by 60 acres on a hilltop with an ocean view. Here Sweet came to profoundly appreciate and learn from resilient patients who survived poverty, addiction, abuse, and severe maladies. She also immersed herself in the writings of the brilliant twelfth-century German mystic and medical practitioner Hildegard of Bingen, conducting extensive research in Europe, and making the famous medieval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Sweet's diverse experiences engendered her commitment to what she calls "slow medicine." Meanwhile, Laguna Honda came under siege, threatened first with burdensome bureaucracy, then with closure. But voter support led, instead, to a new building. Sweet's watershed book ambushes and transforms you with its visionary middle way between the irreplaceable skills of doctors and the benefits of holistic medical knowledge and twenty-first-century technology and standards. Vital, exquisitely written, and spectacularly multidimensional, Sweet's clinically exacting, psychologically discerning, practical, spiritual, and tenderly funny anecdotal chronicle steers the politicized debate over health care back to medicine and compassion. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This is a remarkable, poignant portrait of a committed physician on a quest to understand the heart, as well as the art, of medicine. Laguna Honda Hospital, the last remaining almshouse in the United States—a therapeutic community that houses and cares for the chronically ill or impoverished—offers veteran physician Sweet (clinical medicine, Univ. of California, San Francisco) a unique education in ministering to the body, heart, and soul. Her experiences there inspired her to study medieval physician, poet, and abbess Hildegard of Bingen's alternative approach to medicine of advocating that the human body be nurtured like a garden. Ultimately, Sweet embraced the notion and practice of slow medicine, an approach at odds with the contemporary rush for efficiency, a misguided trend to which even Laguna Honda eventually succumbs. VERDICT A marvelous, arresting read for anyone interested in medical practice. Of particular appeal to aficionados of spiritual medical narratives such as Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. [See Prepub Alert, 9/29/11.]—Lynne F. Maxwell, Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law Lib., PA [Page 127]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

To its staff, San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital was a gift: a place with open wards that provided light, air, and a sense of community for its patients; where the emphasis was on "slow medicine" rather than high-speed computer time. Sweet, a physician at the hospital and a professor of medicine at UC-San Francisco, says Laguna Honda's model was the medieval French hôtel-Dieu—God's hotel—which cared for everyone who couldn't care for themselves. But this unusual model led to problems in an age of cost-efficient medicine, and to complaints and a Department of Justice investigation . Sweet chronicles the internal politics and struggles behind the remarkable turnaround of this unusual hospital—one where she was "able to practice medicine... the way I wanted." But if Laguna Honda felt like a gift to Sweet, the true gift was the courage of her patients, like the addled Mr. Bramwell, who demonstrated through a sweet and skillful dance with his nurses that even in such a patient, the soul, what the ancients called the "anima," remains. Sweet's tales of her hospital, patients, colleagues, and herself offer a fresh linking of medicine past and present. (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A portrait of America's last surviving almshouse describes the author's practice at Laguna Honda Hospital, explaining how its patients and low-tech focus on "attentive medicine" transformed her views about health care.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Victoria Sweet's new book, SLOW MEDICINE, is on sale now!For readers of Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, a medical “page-turner” that traces one doctor’s “remarkable journey to the essence of medicine” (The San Francisco Chronicle). San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital is the last almshouse in the country, a descendant of the Hôtel-Dieu (God’s hotel) that cared for the sick in the Middle Ages. Ballet dancers and rock musicians, professors and thieves—“anyone who had fallen, or, often, leapt, onto hard times” and needed extended medical care—ended up here. So did Victoria Sweet, who came for two months and stayed for twenty years.     Laguna Honda, relatively low-tech but human-paced, gave Sweet the opportunity to practice a kind of attentive medicine that has almost vanished. Gradually, the place transformed the way she understood her work. Alongside the modern view of the body as a machine to be fixed, her extraordinary patients evoked an older idea, of the body as a garden to be tended. God’s Hotel tells their story and the story of the hospital itself, which, as efficiency experts, politicians, and architects descended, determined to turn it into a modern “health care facility,” revealed its own surprising truths about the essence, cost, and value of caring for the body and the soul.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Victoria Sweet's new book, SLOW MEDICINE, is on sale now!For readers of Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air, a medical “page-turner” that traces one doctor’s “remarkable journey to the essence of medicine” (The San Francisco Chronicle). San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital is the last almshouse in the country, a descendant of the Hôtel-Dieu (God’s hotel) that cared for the sick in the Middle Ages. Ballet dancers and rock musicians, professors and thieves—“anyone who had fallen, or, often, leapt, onto hard times” and needed extended medical care—ended up here. So did Victoria Sweet, who came for two months and stayed for twenty years.     Laguna Honda, relatively low-tech but human-paced, gave Sweet the opportunity to practice a kind of attentive medicine that has almost vanished. Gradually, the place transformed the way she understood her work. Alongside the modern view of the body as a machine to be fixed, her extraordinary patients evoked an older idea, of the body as a garden to be tended. God’s Hotel tells their story and the story of the hospital itself, which, as efficiency experts, politicians, and architects descended, determined to turn it into a modern “health care facility,” revealed its own surprising truths about the essence, cost, and value of caring for the body and the soul.