Humor, tragedy, heartbreak, healing, loss, redemption ... As with most health care institutions, Adventist Health is filled not only with patients, beds, doctors and nurses, but with stories. For each patient that walks in the door and for each clinician that does the business of healing, comes a collection of memories and experiences that touch hearts, change lives and demonstrate the healing love of God. Thanks to the hard work of Adventist Health nursing leadership throughout most of the system's 17 hospitals, a collection of patient care stories came together this year in the newest devotional book, Stories From Our Lives. Below are three edited excerpts from the heart-felt publication.
Many years ago, Dennis Reed, registered nurse, was relieving on the obstetric unit at Tillamook County General Hospital. The only patient that day was a woman who was about to lose her third child. She had carried this one for 26 weeks and, at that time, babies born at this gestation were not expected to survive.
"As I entered her room, she was in tears, knowing she was about to lose another child," recalled Reed.
"Why is this happening to me?" she cried. "I would make a good mother. I've prayed to God, but He doesn't seem to hear me."
"I don't remember what I said that day; her cry — more to God than to me — still resonates in my ears," said Reed. "If there was any way for her labor to stop or the baby to live, I wanted this for her, too."
It was a slow day in the rest of the hospital, so Reed stayed to offer his support. The time finally arrived, and the baby was born. After attending to the mother, the doctor went back to the nursery to see the baby. He was surprised to find the baby was still breathing, and not as labored as expected. Immediately he contacted the tertiary hospital many miles away.
"For almost two hours, it worked with this baby, waiting for the transport team to arrive," he remembered. "When the team saw the baby with their own eyes and how well she had done for this long, they also started to hope for a miracle."
The hospital received reports for at least a month that the baby girl was doing well. Then, as often happens, we heard no more. Recently, Reed asked the doctor if he had heard any more about this child. The physician was happy to report she had graduated from college with honors. Surely this young woman was God's miracle!
Gary* was suffering from cancer, had undergone multiple surgeries and was experiencing scleroderma. He was in great pain, no matter what we did, so he often called for help.
"It was my turn to care for him, and I knew it was just a matter of time until he would die," said Glenna Collier, registered nurse. "I tried all the interventions I knew to make him comfortable, but nothing seemed to be effective."
Part of the way through her shift, Collier had a strong feeling to share a song with him — "‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus." She kept pushing back the urge, thinking it would be too awkward.
However, the sense was overwhelming, so on her break she went see him. Holding his hand, Collier started to sing. By the time she finished, they both were crying.
"He told me he had never heard the song and that it was beautiful," she recalled. "He said that he wanted it sung at his funeral."
It wasn't long before Gary was discharged to a care center. Not long after that, he died.
"I will never forget that experience and the power we have to heal in so many ways when we allow ourselves to be used by God," said Collier.
The Power of a Kind Thought
Charity Barruetta, registered nurse, was less than thrilled about being scheduled to work on Christmas Day. However, she figured it probably wasn't her patients' choice to be in the hospital on Christmas, either. Determined to make the best of the situation, Barruetta brought Christmas cards to work in an effort to create a more festive environment for her patients.
"Most of them said, ‘Thank you, and Merry Christmas!' but I will never forget one gentleman," remembered Barruetta. "I entered his room to complete the morning assessment and began chatting. When I gave him the card, he stared in disbelief. His eyes filled with tears."
The man told Barruetta he was completely alone, and hadn't received a card in many years. He explained to her how much it meant to him and gave the young nurse a warm hug.
"I left his room with a prayer in my heart that he would feel God's presence," she said. "I had a great sense of gratitude for my loving family and friends, with whom I could celebrate Christmas when my shift ended."
About three years later, the gentleman was in the hospital again. As he was being rolled out of his room on his way to a procedure, he recognized Barruetta and called out her name.
"He told me again how much he appreciated the Christmas card I had given him. He said that he had a gastro-intestinal bleed and didn't know what was going to happen to him. I held his hand and listened," recalled Barruetta. "It's a wonderful thing when God uses you to touch the soul of another human being. I was touched just as deeply as my patient was on that first Christmas Day I spent at work."
* Names have been changed to protect patient privacy.