A correspondent, writing from the general hospital at Nashville, Tenn., says: “Perhaps the greatest fault military surgeons are apt to fall into, is to be too military in their treatment of their patients. A soldier, when he enters a hospital as a patient, is no longer a soldier, but a patient, and should be treated as such, and not as a soldier. In civil life, we all know how tenderly the sick are treated, and in the great majority of cases, how beneficent to them is our medication. And, ordinarily, too, when a man is stricken down, even, with a formidable disease, there are good constitutional efforts in his system to carry him through his illness. This is seldom the case with our hospital patients. In their sickness we have generally to contend with a broken-down or exhausted constitution, and often the babe in the cradle is not entitled to more tender and skilful treatment to save its flickering life, than the now sick and broken-down soldier. Through want of a uniform understanding on the part of our military, and even some of our medical officers on this very point, many lives are sacrificed. There is in this city the ‘convalescent camp.’ I don’t believe our convalescent soldiers have any fear of any more dreadful doom than to be consigned to this place. When they get well of their diseases, they beg hard for some other destination than this camp. They will cheerfully go front, or to their regiments, or any other place, than the dreaded ‘convalescent camp.’ I think the reason for the odium this place has for the convalescent soldier, is the one above stated. They are treated as soldiers, and not as convalescents.
“Soon after I got into this hospital, a very sick boy was brought into my ward from the ‘convalescent camp.’ He ad been prematurely sent to that place when recovering from pneumonia. It was apprehended that the rebels were going to make a raid on Nashville. This boy, with other convalescent soldiers, was put on duty by lying in the trenches for one night. Here was a very feeble patient, with but one healthy lung, to act as soldier. The exposure brought on pneumonia of the well lung. In this critical condition he was brought into my ward. Soon after, a most touching nostalgic delirium set in. He wanted to go home. He taxed his delirious mind in all conceivable ways, to consummate the object in view. He begged, coaxed, reasoned, and at times would wildly cry out, ‘I will go home.’ A short time before he died, he sprang out of his bunk, and with a sheet around him, ran through the ward, crying, ‘I’ll go now, and no power on earth shall stay me.’ The attendants put him back in bed, and not many hours after his heavenly Father took his spirit from earth, we will humbly hope, to that pure and blissful state, ‘where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.’
“On one inspection occasion, a Sergeant, who had been wounded in the head, was pointed out to the surgeon in charge, as being considered well enough for the ‘convalescent camp.’ ‘Don’t send him,’ says the doctor, with noble consideration for the patient, and, with a smile, added, ‘They are in the habit there of cutting off almost everything that is wounded; if you send the man there, they may conclude to cut his head off.’ To save the gallant soldier’s head, it was decided not to send him to the ‘convalescent camp.’ Another case of homesickness I am reminded of. A poor boy, from the front, was brought into this ward, with the camp dysentery. A more attenuated living being I had never seen. Home, with him, too, was the absorbing subject of his thoughts. ‘I want to see my mother,’ was his constant utterance. Often he wept like a child to go home. I put him off from time to time, endeavoring to feed and stimulate him, to bring him into a condition fit to be sent home. One morning, coming into the ward, I found his bed empty. ‘What! poor Jimmy dead?’ I asked the ward master. ‘No,’ he answered, ‘Jimmy started for home, under the care of our female nurse.’ Here was a case where a resolute and conscientious woman voluntarily took charge of a helpless boy, to take him to his home, a thousand miles away, solely because she felt that she could thereby save his life. She succeeded in getting him home alive, and we have heard he is now getting along well.
“Homesickness is one of the most frequent, difficult, and annoying complications we have in the treatment of hospital patients. When a soldier gets sick, he wishes himself at home. It is well for the surgeon to gratify this feeling, when the patient is in a fit condition to go. And when the case is such that it is not for the patient’s benefit to leave the hospital, and he cannot control himself to submit to circumstances, he is, in a medical point of view, exceedingly difficult to manage. It is thus that nostalgia has helped to send many a lamented soldier to his grave.
“Great is the variety of wounds in a military hospital. One remarkable fact connected with wounds is, that a man’s life is not always jeopardized in proportion to the number of wounds he may have received. One from a slight wound may die. Another may be fearfully mutilated, and yet get well. After the battle of Chackamauga, we received two patients in this hospital, who afforded a striking illustration of this. I asked one of them where he was wounded. ‘All over,’ he answered. I directed the nurse to divest him of his clothes, and found his word pretty much verified. This warrior was perforated by more than half a dozen balls, and yet he got well. Another one had a slight wound on the left knee, caused by a buckshot. The little missile was extracted, and after he had suffered most severely for two months he died.”
Originally posted 2008-09-02 11:42:14.