James Cook column: A witness to healing

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 16, 2011

Having a student from Catawba College ěshadowî me at Rowan Regional Medical Center was a great opportunity to share experiences unique to healthcare ministry. To provide Adam a glimpse into that world via a direct, hands-on relationship dealing with the many types of crises people experience within the hospital setting, such as medical emergencies, illness and dying. It is important for a chaplain to understand many aspects of healthcare and providing pastoral support to our patients and staff. It was a blessing to have Adam here from April thru July.
The morning started with a tour by Lori, the surgical director of the operating room and the sterile processing area. We put on all the necessary clothing, scrubs, shoe covers, surgical hats, gloves, gowns, and mask required to enter those areas. It was interesting to see how the instruments the surgeon would be using would be sterilized and packaged for this one case. Every instrument had to be accounted for, sterilized and prepared before reaching the operating room. Diane and Rinetta, our sterile processing techs, were passionate about their part in preparing the instruments. This is a huge responsibility. Patient safety is definitely in the smallest of details.
Adam and I made sure we did not touch anything or get too close to the instruments. If one instrument or sterile package was compromised the whole package would be contaminated and would need to be sterilized again.
Once the instruments were taken to the operating room for this particular surgery, the surgical tech, Sandy, placed all the instruments in their proper place to assist Doctor Roy with the surgery. Gerald, the certified nurse anesthetist, prepared all of the anesthesia equipment; Jeff, the radiology technician, also prepared his equipment; Kathy, the nurse circulator, made sure everyone and everything was in the room before the patient entered the operating room. Every operating room has a great team caring for our patients.
Prior to entering the room with the patient, we had to get permission from the patient to observe her surgery. She agreed to have two chaplains observe her surgery. We had prayer together and asked God to be with her, Dr. Roy, and all those who would participate in her surgery. Tearful and anxious, the patient prepared herself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually before Gerald began anesthesia.
Once the patient was covered with the sterile blue cover and prepped, Doctor Roy made his incision around the neck. During the course of the operation, instruments were being passed back and forth sometimes without mention, often with only eye contact. The damaged piece of bone or disc was removed and the patient was given a new piece of bone in her neck and the pressure was relieved. The procedure took about an hour, the incision was closed and now the process of healing would begin for the patient. It is awesome that God could create a body so complex, that it can heal itself with the help of others.
How many times in your life have you had physical, emotional, mental or spiritual pain? There are times in our lives that we wish a physician could take out the pain and make us whole again with no pain involved in the process. We all know it doesnít work that way. We realize that life can be very painful at times. The loss of a job, a divorce, your children make decisions that you donít understand or agree with or you are diagnosed with an illness. All of these painful situations will require faith, courage, hope, love and healing.
Just as this patient received a new piece of bone in her neck, the old was taken out and made new, but not without pain in the process. Healing can and does occur. There will be pain while the healing occurs. Sometimes healing will require therapy, patience, time and the encouragement of a friend, or family member.
God says in Isaiah 41:10, ěDo not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you for I am your God, I will strengthen you, and surely I will help you.î
We know that there is anxiety, fear and pain to occur for the patient that has surgery. We know that it important to validate those fears and recognize that pain is a part of the healing process. Providing pastoral care or spiritual care to the patient is a part of our holistic care. It is truly an honor to journey with someone from brokenness to wholeness in body, mind and spirit. We should all remember that we are here for each other and that God is always with us. Adam and I both had the opportunity to be a witness to healing.
James Cook is chaplain at Rowan Regional Medical Center.