Support the healing process: Be a gardener not a mechanic

Six years ago, I had a bilateral hernia repair, the surgeon was highly recommended and recognized as an expert in his field. Although the surgery was a mechanical success, the failure of the post-operative care resulted in severe urinary retention, multiple emergency room visits, and ongoing urinary difficulties. Six weeks after the surgery, I was still lugging a Foley catheter with a leg collection bag that drained my bladder. The surgeon had stated I could be back doing physical activities with a week (Peper, 2019).   From my perspective the surgeon was a mechanic and not a gardener. The moment the mechanical structure was fixed in surgery, he had completed his work even if post-surgical complications arose.

Being a mechanic in medicine is an important role. The concept of being a mechanics is not limited to surgery, it can be applied to any treatment strategy when the practitioner focuses narrowly only on the presenting issue. A broken bone > align and put on a cast; hip pain due to the breakdown of cartilage > hip replacement surgery; depression > prescribe antidepressant medication; diabetes > prescribe medications to reduce blood sugar; hypertension > -prescribe anti-hypertensive medication; pain > prescribe opioids, etc. In many cases, healing is much more than mechanical interventions, it often includes post-operative care, exploring factors that may have contributed to disease onset, and retraining such as ongoing physical therapy for hip replacement surgery or teaching stress management, exercise, diet and lifestyle changes for people with diabetes.

Much of healing, especially for the treatment of chronic conditions, needs  much more than a mechanical intervention.  For example, type 2 diabetes, depression, or hypertension are triggered and maintained to a large extent by socio-economics inequalities and stressful lifestyles. Treatment needs to focus on healing and reduce the factors that created or now maintains the illness and support those factors that enhance healing.  This is similar to the role of a gardener.  Once planted, a successful gardener needs to be aware of, and support, all the factors that facilitate the plants growth (enough sunlight at the right time, appropriate watering and fertilizer, soil conditions, etc.). 

These concepts are discussed in the superb article by Gavin Francis, MD and seminal book by Wayne Jonas, MD that describes how medicine needs to change and incorporate an holistic perspective to support and nurture the healing process.

Superb article by Gavin Francis, MD:  ‘We need to respect the process of healing’: a GP on the overlooked art of recovery. (Francis, 2022)

Seminal book by Wayne Jonas, MD: How healing works (Jonas, 2018).

Additional resource to optimize health and healing when needing surgery

References

Gavin, F. (2022). ‘We need to respect the process of healing’: a GP on the overlooked art of recovery. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/04/we-need-to-respect-the-process-of-healing-a-gp-on-the-overlooked-art-of-recovery

Jonas, W. (2018). How healing works. New York: Lorena Jones Books

Peper, E. Surviving and preventing medical errors. (2019). Townsend Letter-The Examiner of Alternative Medicine. 429, 63-69. https://www.townsendletter.com/article/429-surviving-and-preventing-medical-errors/


4 Comments on “Support the healing process: Be a gardener not a mechanic”

  1. Gary Ames says:

    Eric,

    I’m a long time fan. I still breath during my golf swing the way you suggest at an NF conference.

    I’m about to embark upon a health and wellness growth spurt.

    I’ve got massage, IR sauna, accupuncture, chiropractic, NF, Ketamine treatments, and I’m going back to a guy with an amazing low level laser treatments, 30 day cleanse…

    What else might I add to the mix?

    Gary Ames, Licensed Psychologist

    Board Certified in Neurofeedback

    28 Rock Hill Road, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

    610.668-3223 phone fax 610.668-0213

    http://www.CalmFocus.com

    • erikpeper says:

      Enhance the factors that support health and the immune system. That includes laughter, social support and connections, time to regenerate and having purpose. See also,

  2. Gary says:

    Hi Eric

    Although it’s not about medicine, you might find some analogies to run with in my book, “Gardeners Not Mechanics: How to cultivate change at work”.

    Regards

    Gary


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