Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Health Care Story

Once there was very important and well respected general who lived in a distant country. He had a disease which, according to all the doctors in his country, was incurable. One day he heard about a medical center, far away, that could cure him! He invited some friends and together, they flew to see what could be done.
When they arrived, he used a connection with someone on the Medical Center’s Board of Governors, and they called the Chief Executive Officer. When the CEO heard that the patient expected to be healed from an incurable disease, he cried out “Am I instead of G-d, to kill and give life to the dead!” And then he tore his clothing and cried some more.

When the chaplain heard of this, he sent word back to the CEO that the patient should go to the chaplaincy department, and would soon know that G-d is present in the hospital.

When the general reached the chaplains office, he waited outside (chaplain was busy due to the staffing ratio) but the chaplain sent a note via a pastoral care volunteer. The note said, “Go to the beach and immerse in the ocean seven times and you will be healed.” The general was furious, for expected a faith healing service, with the chaplain striking him on the forward and declaring “You are healed!” He was so angry that he decided to go home (treatment compliance?), but his friends encouraged him to try it anyway, since it was so easy… and so he did.

When he came out of the water, he was healed. The grateful general returned to the medical center and sought out the chaplain for spiritual counseling. He thanked the chaplain, and told him that now he knew that G-d was present and had healed him. When he returned home, he would always remember that, no matter what happened. (based on 2 Kings 5)

Chaplains play many parts in the healing of patients, and one of the most important is reminding people that G-d is present in their lives, both in sickness and in health.

In the story, it’s obvious to the patient and to us that immersing in the ocean was not the cure to his illness. It is also clear to the 96% of our patients who believe in G-d (The Gallup Poll, 1996) that while the patient care team creates the conditions for healing, it’s the body, mind and soul that do the work, and it’s the presence of G-d that brings it all together.

While Jewish chaplains do many things, the beginning of [chaplain] wisdom is [recalling] the awe of the Omnipresent.