Mind and body are still numbed as the patient is wheeled back to his hospital room after a surgical procedure.

If he is awake, the one thing he wants most is to sleep. If only they'll let him rest now, perhaps things will work out all right after all.

The hospital has done for him what he couldn't do for himself. People with incredible skills have handled their team assignments flawlessly - again. They held his life in their hands, and then handed it back without incident.

Now recovery will depend for the most part on natural forces. The most important of them will be rest - the peace of both mind and body that permits nature to heal and regenerate.

Yes, if only they'll let him rest now, perhaps he'll be all right.

Unfortunately, however, the average hospital's post-operative patient care is something less than ideal.

Respected figures in the medical field have already expressed concern about the technical deficiencies in convalescent care. Perhaps it is the layman's place to deal with what ought to be the simplest aspect of the problem: the failure of hospitals to provide an environment conducive to post-operative rest.

A hospital is a place that hums with around-the-clock activity. Some of it is necessary, some is not. Some of it is beneficial to a patient who needs rest to recover from the trauma of surgery, some is not.

What cannot be avoided, one endures are best he can. What can be avoided, but is not, needs scrutiny.

The problem, as always, is people - people who move about, sometimes unnecessarily, sometimes clumsily, rattling and banging and dropping things; people who talk, people who talk too much, people who talk too loudly; people who speak in a whisper in a public library but sound off loud and clear within earshot of the poor wretch across the ball who has been moaning in pain all night.

Some of the offenders are family members and other visitors whose intrusions are temporary. They leave - not promptly, perhaps, but they leave. More enduring intrusions emanate from radios and television sets, and sometimes from thoughtless members of the hospital staff itself.

Young doctors are wont to burst into hospital rooms and boom out a cheery "Good morning, and how are we feeling this morning." Behind the thin curtain that divides semiprivate rooms, there is often another patient whose pain kept him from sleep until day-break. It might concern the doctors to know that some of the sick people who are startled into consciousness by such explosions of unneccessary noise wish they had a baseball bat handy, and the strength to use it.

Staff bull sessions are also not conducive to post-operative rest and recovery. Participants in these group discussions are usually young and full of life - young doctors, interns, students, nurses. They haven't seen each other since yesterday, so they have much to talk about. After two of them stop in the corridor to socialize "for just a second," the others gather like flies around a picnic table until the entire area is buzzing with idle chatter.

Despite all these obstacles, blessed sleep does occasionally descend upon the post-operative patient, especially if his will to survive is strong and his hand is firmly in the hand of the great healer up above.

But to one who thinks the medical profession's credo ought to be "First, do no harm," avoidable noise seems inexcusable. When a noted cardiologist was asked for comment, he showed genuine concern. "We have told them," he said, "and we have told them again. Maybe the patients ought to start telling them. I wonder if it would do any good."

Perhaps not, doctor. But in spite of everything, sleep does come to the patient who is patient, and with the help of the truly beautiful people who devote their lives to the healing arts, nature does heal his wounds. For even the complaining patient, there is much to be thankful for.