Three things for a story I've been working on this week.
1. I'm looking for some kind of guide to illness and injury---specifically, how long it would take someone to recover from a particular injury, at least on the average. I don't particularly want to go into details about the story I need this for (it's the "nanotechnology for dummies" story, if you've read that thread)...but I think I could put a reference guide of this kind to any number of uses while writing. Anybody know of a book or website?
2. I'm looking for an on-line calender with dates back in the late 1940s. My on-computer calenders can't display or print out in the format I need...and I'm not sure they go back that far anyway. The perpetual calenders I have to hand (in the almanac and elsewhere) give me a few dates, but I'd like, say, something I can printout with months and days large enough to write a few notes on.
3. You may gather from the above that I'm also interested in information about the late 1940s. Anybody know of, say, a 1940s equivalent of those "Life in Roman Times" or "Life in a Medieval Castle" books? I have a few almanacs and such with dates...I need to know more about how people lived...
Anybody wanna help? Or maybe just make jokes? Either way I'll come out ahead...
We cannot offer you any useful advice about illness and injury unless we know specifically what sort of injuries/illnesses you are talking about. There are various threads on this board giving detail about gunshot wounds, poisons, and other such things. My advice is to type the sort of injury you have in mind into a search engine, and include the word "forensic" into the search. The word "Forensic" generally leads to a graphic description into the nature of any wound or disease.
There is a chart called a "Perpetual Calendar." Our local phone book used to print one in it. It's a chart that essentially gives you 12 different calendar arrangements, and then lists all the years and identifies which calendar matches which year. If you GOOGLE the words "perpetual calendar" you will come up with what you seek. Here's one link: http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/index.html?year=1940&country=1 Or go to www.timeanddate.com and plug in your year for their Calendar Generator.
My advice about "life in the 1940's" is that you can always plow through history books, but reading the periodicals of the time will give you more of a view into daily life. See if your local library keeps microfiche records of your local newspaper. Plow through several copies of newspapers from the 1940's, and pay special attention to the advertisements. Or try finding a used book/magazine store that sells old copies of LIFE magazine.
It's also vital to know the kind of treatment applied, since that has a huge impact on recovery times. Also, the degree to which the patient is able/willing to convelesce has a big impact on whether recovery even takes place at all.
An average will be just that, an average. It isn't likely that any given injury will take the average length of time to heal. Most injuries will heal much faster than the average, a few will take years longer.
As for what life was like in the 40's, just find somebody old enough to remember living back then. Or several, because it isn't like the same things happened to everyone. There was a pretty big war on for the first half of that decade. Most people in the developed world would have been at least aware of that. My dad spent some of that era dodging Japanese bullets and stealing rice. Then there was fleeing the Communists. A lot of Americans recall the bullet-dodging part, though from slightly different perspectives. Fleeing from Communists stayed popular for decades. For some reason stealing rice wasn't as popular.
My mom went to school and listened to radio broadcasts about the war. Did a lot of housework, got tormented by her brother, and generally lived a "normal" life. So life in the 40's depended a lot on particulars.
About recovery from illness and injury, I don't have the kind of first hand experience some others have mentioned, but I am a disability adjudicator. Part of what I do to pay the bills is decide how long a person will stay impaired from their condition. If you still need to know, I might be able to help if I know specifics. I'd be glad to give it a try.
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Many injuries are difficult to judge because they vary in severity. You might crack your femur, or have a severe break, or shatter it, and the treatment and healing time is often dependent on severity.
That being said, www.webmd.com is a fabulous resource to look up injuries. In many cases, if you scroll down the main page of the injury, there is a box that says "more information from eMedicineHealth", and one of the links is "outlook". This will give you some estimates for recovery time, as well as an idea of what life would be like until fully recovered.
Actually, I was looking for reference works and such. I'm amenable to passing something around for advice, but my work is not yet in a state for that kind of comment.
Anyway...right now, my character, a seventeen-year-old girl, otherwise healthy, has injuries consisting one broken arm, three broken ribs, and a skull fracture, plus associated assorted bruises and crushed flesh. No neck or spinal injuries, all major organs intact. I haven't firmed up anything more precise, but plan to at some point.
Right now I have the character in the hospital and was planning on keeping her in there for a month to a month-and-a-half. Is that realistic? You may assume that her recovery will appear to be miraculous, with no major problems cropping up.
quote:Actually, I was looking for reference works and such. I'm amenable to passing something around for advice, but my work is not yet in a state for that kind of comment.
As I said before, www.webmd.com is a good reference for you. But personally, I would say a month or month and a half in the hospital seems reasonable for those injuries, assuming a perfect recovery. She would probably not be totally recovered in that time (barring unusually impressive healing), but I think she would be well enough to at least be up and about a little bit and recovering at home.
Broken bones don't require hospitalization for extended periods of time, unless they render the patient bed-ridden. The skull fracture might require special care and an observation period, but if she's conscious and "otherwise healthy" I'd make the observation period less than a week. In a modern hospital they'd image her brain and decide what to do about it, but this is in the 40's. They couldn't do a lot about subtle brain injuries back then, and the insurance situation was a lot different too.
If she can walk and talk, then she's outta there. They might not even bother with an observation period if there were no obvious signs of neuralogical impairment (reflex, equilibrium, or mental problems) They'd tell her to get a lot of rest till the casts came off in a few months, but once the bones were set they'd have no reason to have her stay at the hospital.
In the early 70s I had a motorcycle accident and fractured my skull, ribs, left shoulder joint, left clavicle and left shoulder blade. I was in the hospital for 10 days and the reason they didn't dicharge me earlier was because I had no memory of who I was and couldn't remember what had happened for more than 15 minutes or so at a time. On the day that I can remember waking up, day 10, I was told that I was leaving the hospital.
I was in great pain and slept sitting upright in a chair for over a month. I had a sling on my left arm for 3 months or so, the memories are kinda hazy. I was well enough physically and mentally to go back to college after 6 months. I had permanent memory loss. I had constant pain in my left shoulder for over 10 years. 33 years later I still have limited use of my left arm, and degenerating nerves in the left arm and shoulder that are slowly causing me to lose the use of my left hand.
Yup, nearly all the comments are useful. My hospital stays have been limited to (1) birth, (2) getting six stitches on a chin cut when I was five, and (3 and 4) getting an infected boil lanced and cleaned out when I was thirty-nine. So you can see I need to research this matter...
To mikemunsil: let me extend my sympathies, and also add that I can use the information in upcoming unwritten parts of the story (assuming I get that far, that is). Certain changes in the character will have to be concealed and excused---that kind of post-accident trauma could be useful in that way.
It's a shame, how TV shows and such have somebody seriously injured, then usually up and around and in the next episode with nothing wrong with them. Like a cop being shot in the shoulder and appearing at the end of the episode with an arm in a sling---I've been told this is extremely debilitating and would likely lead to early retirement.
On calendars...I found a website, www.timeanddate.com , which with ease gave me a page I could print out for 1946 and 1947. It's not ideal, there may be something better out there, but at least I've now got days-of-the-week now (which I need) and phases of the moon (which I may yet use). (I hope I typed it in right and the link works, if anybody wants to check it out.)
(On a sadder note...I discovered in the process of all this that I've been typing "calendar" with a second "e" instead of an "a." I have a fairly large list of words I have to think about before I type in, and I'll just have to add this one to the list.)
[edited to add "the link works." The link works.]
[This message has been edited by Robert Nowall (edited August 15, 2006).]
The shot in the shoulder thing depends on the specifics of the wound. If the bullet hits any bones or the cartilage/tendons/ligaments, or if it's a large caliber round that does extensive tissue damage, then the injury will probably not be fixed with a sling and a bandage.
However, even a graze is immediately debilitating (and bloody), so just because being shot floored your cop and made a gory mess of his shoulder, that doesn't mean it did a lot of permanent damage. Such a wound could easily require nothing more than a surface dressing and temporary immobilization of the affected arm. Nor are such wounds entirely uncommon, if you see someone drawing a bead on you and dodge right away, it's actually very likely. It's a good bit more common for the bullet to miss entirely, of course. A 180+ lb. man can lose enough blood to suffer shock and unconsciousness and make one hell of a mess, but still be perfectly okay the next day given good medical treatment. Particularly if he was wounded while engaged in vigorous physical activity and had a fair amount of adrenaline in his system. Even a very minor wound can produce this kind of blood loss, so fragments from a near miss can do the job too.
On the other hand, a bruise that doesn't even break the skin can cause internal bleeding, embolism of the heart or brain leading to sudden death, anywhere else possibly leading to tissue necrosis and horribly prolonged death, or perhaps just an ache that goes away after a few days. Draw the particular case convincingly, don't worry about averages.
I loved the picture of a bunch of riflemen wearing blinders