Recovery by Gavin Francis: Review and Giveaway

Just over a year ago, I reviewed Dr Gavin Francis’s Intensive Care, his record of the first 10 months of Covid-19, especially as it affected his work as a GP in Scotland. It ended up on my Best of 2021 list and is still the book I point people to for reflections on the pandemic. Recovery serves as a natural sequel: for those contracting Covid, as well as those who have had it before and may be suffering the effects of the long form, the focus will now be on healing as much as it is on preventing the spread of the virus. This lovely little book spins personal and general histories of convalescence, and expresses the hope that our collective brush with death will make us all more determined to treasure our life and wellbeing.

Francis remembers times of recovery in his own life: after meningitis at age 10, falling off his bike at 12, and a sinus surgery during his first year of medical practice. Refuting received wisdom about scammers taking advantage of sickness benefits (government data show only 1.7% of claims are fraudulent), he affirms the importance of a social safety net that allows necessary recovery time. Convalescence is subjective, he notes; it takes as long as it takes, and patients should listen to their bodies and not push too hard out of frustration or boredom.

Traditionally, travel, rest and time in nature have been non-medical recommendations for convalescents, and Francis believes they still hold great value – not least for the positive mental state they promote. He might also employ “social prescribing,” directing his patients to join a club, see a counsellor, get good nutrition or adopt a pet. A recovery period can be as difficult for carers as for patients, he acknowledges, and most of us will spend time as both.

I read this in December while staying with my convalescent mother, and could see how much of its practical advice applied to her – “Plan rests regularly throughout the day,” “Use aids to avoid bending and reaching,” “Set achievable goals.” If only everyone being discharged from hospital could be issued with a copy – pocket-sized and only just over 100 pages, it would be a perfect companion through any recovery period. I’d especially recommend this to readers of Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am, I Am, I Am and Christie Watson’s The Language of Kindness.

Favourite lines:

At one level, convalescence has something in common with dying in that it forces us to engage with our limitations, the fragile nature of our existence. Why not, then, live fully while we can?

If we can take any gifts or wisdom from the experience of illness, surely it’s this: to deepen our appreciation of health … in the knowledge that it can so easily be taken away.

 

Published by Profile Books/Wellcome Collection today, 13 January. My thanks to the publisher for the free copy for review.


*The Profile publicity team has offered a giveaway copy to be sent to one of my readers. If you’d like to be entered in the draw (UK only, sorry), please mention so in your comment below. I’ll choose a winner at random next Friday morning (the 21st) and contact them by e-mail.*

18 responses

  1. Thanks – it would be a lovely addition to my collection of Gavin’s books. We all need a bit of convalescence and self-care as carers as well as patients – beautifully put, Rebecca.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for reading! I’ve loved his four books that I’ve read so far.

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  2. In today’s world, people feel guilty about taking time to convalesce so they get back to work etc far too quickly and full recovery takes even longer. I remember reading that people who tried to ‘push through’ their Covid symptoms suffered for it in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought it was valuable advice here to take as much time for recovery as is necessary — the government and employers need to be more compassionate.

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  3. I’d have found this very handy a few decades ago! The all too common ‘push through’ mentality Karen mentions may result in a quicker return to work for employers but the long term results can be so damaging for individuals, their friends and families.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t imagine facing a major illness while trying to work full time and/or raise children. The cost, too, can be ruinous, at least in the USA.

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  4. This sounds wonderful and like common sense – it takes as long as it takes – but common sense so often goes against the grind of capitalism – and in the U.S. runaway reliance on individualism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think some of Francis’s books are available in the States. All of us will face illness, or caring for someone who’s ill, at some point. Empathy for that situation needs to be built into systems.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As the govt reduces the isolation time for covid again today, few of those who had actual symptoms will be recovered enough to return to work on day 6 surely? Many employers will begrudge extra time off for those who need it. I’d be interested to read this book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All these unwise steps being taken for the sake of the economy…

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  6. I found it really interesting that when I was recuperating from an operation, most people said to me “Don’t push it, don’t rush around” – like I do at the best of times! Very odd and I kept having to say, “No, I’m being sensible,” even though it was incredibly frustrating to have had my core drilled through!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While we were there my mother wouldn’t stop pottering about until pain or exhaustion forced her to. We kept saying, “no, you sit down and we’ll go get/do X for you.”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As a Long Covid sufferer who has struggled with workplace rights and my own guilt, this book is timely and important. I would love to be entered into the draw to win this book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry to hear that, Katharine — I think you’d find this book very reassuring!

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  8. If only we could extend a little trust to people to allow people time to recover as guided by their bodies. I’d love to read this book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading! I agree, it’s about compassion and believing the best of people — always a good place to start.

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  9. The subjective elements seems particularly useful; especially in a one-size-fits-all healthcare system, it’s too easy to ignore that every human body is different and responses to different situations can vary widely. No wonder this appealed to you so much: perfect timing!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. […] won this book in a giveaway hosted by Rebecca who reviewed it here – thank […]

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