>Hospital de Sant Pau: Repurpose or Loss?

>Barcelona’s Hospital de Sant Pau (St. Paul’s Hospital) was founded in 1401 upon the merger of six of the city’s medieval hospitals into a central institution. There are other hospitals in the city, some of equally ancient origin, but Sant Pau has always been the most prestigious health care facility in Catalonia. This prestige is reflected in the uniquely beautiful buildings that make up the central campus of the hospital, which were designed and built by the great Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner between 1901 and 1930. The complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Apparently the hospital has decided to move into newer, modern digs, and vacate the historic complex. As Barcelona was recently selected to be the seat of the emerging Mediterranean Union, the city plans to turn over the old hospital campus for use by bureaucrats of that organization. This is a very sad turn of events.

The genius of Domènech i Montaner’s design back in the day was that the patient was able to mentally “escape” from his illness. He was surrounded with fairy-tale like structures of turrets, domes, arches, mosaics, sculptures, and plant-filled courtyards. The campus features lush Mediterranean landscaping, and patient rooms lined with balconies, sun rooms, and enormous windows to let in both light and the scents from the flowers and herbs in the gardens below. It was, for the early part of the last century, an uniquely “holistic” approach to medicine and certainly a nod to Medieval monastic apothecary/herbalist gardens.

A sequence of important scenes in director Whit Stillman’s terrific indie film “Barcelona” were shot in and around the old hospital. If you can get your hands on the DVD, you’ll see how the combination of working hospital, dream-like buildings, plenty of sunlight and beautiful gardens, were truly ahead of their time. It is a shame that the experience will be lost in the interest of government expansionism and profit-based efficiency.


>KAPOW – The Doctor’s Take

>I am just back from an appointment with my orthopaedic doctor, and all appears to be progressing as it should. He is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon, and helped me a great deal two years ago when I had a severe ankle sprain and was in a cast and on a cane for nearly two months. I had an appointment with him last week, but canceled it the day before because I had been feeling better – which of course was stupid because then I started feeling worse. This time I kept the appointment and decided not to self-diagnose for a change.

After a lot of poking and prodding of the leg and knee, which seem to be getting back to normal quickly, we talked about the neck and back which are the areas at this point that are causing the most annoyance. He says what I am going through at the moment is just part of the healing process after you have a neck strain or sprain. He gave me a book he co-wrote on how to treat neck injuries, and told me that if it gets worse or I am not better in a few weeks, to come back and he will prescribe some physical therapy.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not always a good patient. I have a tendency to try to shrug things off and say I am back to normal after an injury far too quickly. Partially this is being reasonably literate and thinking I can diagnose myself. Partially this is the result of being both a man and stubborn. It is simply the case that unless one is a trained medical professional – and sometimes not even then – you should not try to diagnose yourself.

>KAPOW – Reflections and Medications

>Yesterday afternoon was rather rough for me, as the ibuprofen was not doing such a fantastic job, and after holding up this big noggin of mine all day, I think my neck had just about had enough. However, I had to meet an English friend of mine who was in town for a conference, and did not want to disappoint as I had canceled dinner on Friday for feeling miserable. So I left work a little early and stopped off at the Catholic Information Center’s chapel to pray, and that actually did a lot of good – it helped to focus my energy into trying to be friendly and interesting, which I think would have been rather difficult if I had not taken that time to refocus. (I also learned that Archbishop Chaput is speaking at the CIC tomorrow evening, and if I can rally I will try to make it.)

I went to bed rather early, and this morning I decided to reflect on “An Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales. I opened the book at random, and it fell open to a chapter containing the following passage:

“If one has a fall in the street, there is the ridiculous part of it to be borne, as well as the possible pain, and this is an abjection we must accept.”

Pretty random coincidence. Later on in the same chapter, he writes:

“Thus, if I have an abject disease on my face, I should endeavor to get it cured, although I do not wish to obliterate the abjection it has caused me.”

That’s reasonable and sensible advice of course: take your medicine, even while you are offering up the suffering. The fact that this particular chapter was what fell open to me, however, was very curious.

However it was also surprising when I turned on my computer some minutes later, and in the overnight e-mail was a message from a priest friend, in which he reminded me that modern medicines are a part of God’s creation and should be taken to try and help alleviate our suffering. Clearly I am getting called on the carpet for not taking better care of myself, and I will certainly obey. I’m no good to anyone otherwise.