Prior to moving to Colorado I lived in the Bay Area for fourteen years. I’ve been involved with health and healing since I started graduate school and that’s where my heart still resides. I moved to the Bay Area from the east coast in 1986 at what would become the AIDS crisis at a time when medications weren’t very effective and people were dying all the time.
I’d met a woman who was a doctor at Laguna Honda Hospital. It was a very old building and was considered an almshouse, a place for those who were poor and very sick. For many, it became San Francisco’s AIDS hospital/hospice with its looming old structure tucked away, almost like a haunted mansion. I always wondered about Laguna Honda, but never delved into its mysteries.
Then I ran across Victoria Sweet’s book, God’s Hotel. She’s a doctor at Laguna Honda Hospital and has been for more than twenty years. I could go on and on about the hospital, but it’s Dr. Sweet’s attraction to Hildegard of Bingen that caught my attention.
Hildegard of Bingen was a nun, mystic, medical provider who lived in the 12th century. Dr. Sweet, after years of medical school and training went and received her PhD in history and social medicine focusing on the work of Hildegard of Bingen. What Dr. Sweet shares is Bingen’s philosophy about the prescription of time when it comes to treating a patient. She also comments on how Bingen’s triumvirate of care, Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merry were methods of treatment not just comic relief as we might believe today.
Dr. Sweet’s devotion to invoking the essence of time into her treatment plans, as much as she was allowed in modern medicine is a tribute to her knowledge of Hildegard of Bingen’s methodologies, and her believe in the human body and the human spirit in healing.
One of the beautiful aspects of “God’s Hotel” is how Dr. Sweet describes her personal pilgrimage. In addition to walking the Santiago de Compostela, she discusses her personal pilgrimages experiences by her interactions with staff and patients at Laguna Honda.
So what do you think about Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet, and Dr. Merry? In case you’re wondering it’s about diet, rest, and joy. The book is a great read not only for the history of Laguna Honda Hospital, but for the incredible devotion Victoria Sweet takes us on both personally and professionally. She’s the type of doctor we all wish we had.