Health-care professionals have the unique opportunity of sharing some of life's most difficult and precious moments with their patients. At Adventist Health, employees take these moments very seriously. By gently offering the love, compassion and care that they would offer their own loved ones, Adventist Health staff have made impressions on many patients and their families.
Many of these encounters have been captured in the most recent book, Our Stories: Living the Adventist Health Mission. This is the second edition of the book that shares devotional-like stories — written by Adventist Health employees — from all of our hospitals and many different professions. This series was spearheaded by patient care executives from all the medical centers, and illustrates how caring really is Adventist Health's Sacred Calling.
The Flower Bush
A few years ago, a tiny Japanese woman was admitted at the end of my shift on the ICU at Tillamook County General Hospital. I helped her settle in, spoke with her son, gave her husband a cup of tea and showed them to our family room. I was eager to get home, so I left right away.
Months later, when another change-of-shift admission required my assistance, I got the patient settled in and placed a chair close by for his son. The next night, I heard all about “that old Japanese man in 224.” He was refusing to speak, eat or take his medication.
I sat down and told him if he’d take his medicine, his heart rate could be controlled, and he could go home to his wife. He looked at me and said, “My wife died. You put her in this room to die, and now you put me in this room to die.”
I researched her chart and discovered that she was the lady I had briefly helped several months earlier. She had died shortly after admission. The man who was now in room 224 was listed as her husband.
So I set up another room far from 224 and called the son to assure him that his father was not dying. I apologized for placing his father in the same room his mother had died in.
I had a cup of hot tea waiting for the father when he arrived in his new room. I apologized to him, too, asking him to forgive me for being impatient to get home to my garden and my family when he was in such great need. He never said a word. He just started to drink his tea.
A few weeks later, a flowering bush was delivered to the floor with my name on it. It was from my Japanese patient. The card said, “For your garden, because you took time to understand.”
The Power of the Spirit
As a chaplain at Adventist Medical Center, in Portland, Oregon, I intended to bring calm, hope and healing to the pre-op patient before her impending procedure. We made eye contact. I introduced myself as chaplain, inquired about her morning and asked the middle-aged, slight-framed woman if she would like me to offer prayer.
Normally, people are receptive to receive spiritual support during my brief visit. They are either glad to have some company, or they have serious issues they would like to talk about. I inquire if they would like me to pray for them, and the majority of patients respond positively.
That morning, the patient replied with hostility when the question of prayer arose. I respectfully acknowledged her response. As I concluded my brief visit, her friend sitting across the room said, “Maybe you ought to let him pray so you can cover all the bases.”
The patient glared at her friend, glanced back at me, snapped her head back on her pillow, defiantly folded her hands and, with a frown on her face, tightly closed her eyes.
“Okay,” she barked in her gravel-pitched voice. “Pray.”
My prayer was simply, “Thank you, Father, for covering all the bases of life today. May peace and comfort abide in this journey of life.”
All of a sudden, a sense of stillness filled the room. I didn’t dare move an inch. Within a few seconds I heard her whisper, “Hmm … that’s strange. I feel different.”
It was evident that the Spirit was doing something amazing, and I wasn’t about to interfere. As I opened my eyes, I noticed that her entire countenance seemed to soften.
I left the room in awe of God’s Spirit and found myself reflecting on the experience of Jesus, who told Nicodemus that the winds are blowing. I am convinced that the winds of the Spirit were traveling through her pre-op room. Ah, the power of prayer!