The dictionary says this:
“The state of being free from illness or injury.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) gives a nod to our emotional and mental and says this:
“Health is the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
These definitions of health played out in my life recently after my son suffered a rare and life-threatening blood infection. He spent nine days in the hospital and then spent a month at home nursing and medicating himself via IV and injections. Just last week his two specialists used the word “healthy” as they ended his drug treatments and sent him off to live his life.
Healthy? Really? He lost significant muscle mass over this 5-week ordeal and now can barely hustle up a set of stairs. His lungs only a month ago held numerous clots. His liver is stressed from weeks of powerful drugs. His immune system just fought a world war. His natural state is altered from weeks of powerful antibiotics.
Yes, the infection is cleared. Yes, the clots in his lungs are gone. He is, according to medical tests and specialists, disease free. But is he healthy? What would be different if the medical professionals had said: “We beat the disease. Now comes the work to get you truly healthy.”
I understand their training is in disease management, not health by any other definition. However, that this is missing from their treatment and discharge of patients is, to me, very telling about the state of our collective health and especially our mindset around what health is.
The human body has tremendous capability. I’ve lived it firsthand and just witnessed it in my son. But I wonder what it says about our collective strength, well-being, and general attitude towards life if the goal is to merely not be sick? His current state is not how I want my son to define health. When he’s running around a basketball court or hiking all day in Acadia – things he loves but is too weak to do now – that’s how I hope he defines health for himself.
How do you evaluate your own health? Are you the strong, vibrant, resilient human that you have the capacity to be? That you want to be?