1. Deutsch, Roberta Lynn

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Almost 20 years have passed since I accompanied my 21-year-old daughter to the physician's office for the results of her MRI. The news was a certain death sentence without surgery and 50/50 with surgery.

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My daughter chose surgery, and although it went well, she had a massive stroke during the night. Fourteen days later, she died. This gut-wrenching experience changed my nursing practice.


The nurses who cared for my daughter did not offer emotional or spiritual support to me; they knew I was a nurse. They came into the room, cared for my daughter, and left. Caring for a young patient who is not going to walk out of the hospital is tough for nurses.


Although my family offered love and support, they could not remove the excruciating pain that darkened my days and haunted my nights. As I prayed and read the Bible for consolation, I found peace in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (The Voice): "He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from his comfort and share it with others in their own struggles."


Later, I realized that I could provide spiritual support to patients and families who needed my care while hospitalized. I did not want another patient to feel the loneliness I felt at my daughter's bedside. I wanted to share the compassion that God had shown me. I resolved from that day forward to offer prayer to patients.


I am a vascular access specialist for a multihospital, faith-based organization. I usually spend an hour with a patient, placing a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC). Rarely do I see that patient again.


Normally, I work in a different hospital each day. I have limited time to provide for spiritual needs while with a patient. When in a room, I look for signs of faith: devotional books, a Bible, or other items that suggest the patient's spirituality. In those cases, I offer to pray for patients before starting the procedure or before leaving the room.


Several years ago, I met someone who would reaffirm the importance of prayer for patients. I had an order to place a PICC in a patient on the oncology floor. I walked into the patient's room right after the oncologist walked out of the room. The oncologist delivered the life-changing diagnosis: acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).


Joanne* was sitting in bed with a tearful expression. She had 3 to 6 months to live. A Christian devotional book rested on the bedside table. I introduced myself, we talked a bit, and I offered to pray for her. She said yes, took my hand, and together we prayed. I inserted her PICC and left, not knowing how God would answer our prayer.


Joanne started her treatment that night. I came to visit as time allowed. Some days she was awake and alert, and we would hold hands and pray. Other days, she was too heavily medicated, but I continued to pray for her.


During Joanne's hospital stay, I was involved in a special project on the oncology floor that allowed me to visit numerous times during her 82-day hospital stay. When she was released, we exchanged phone numbers, hoping to keep in touch.


Our paths sometimes crossed when Joanne had reactions to chemotherapy; I would see her when she was readmitted. Then we lost touch, until one day we met for lunch. She was 3 years out from her diagnosis.


Joanne said I was the only healthcare provider who had prayed for her during her hospitalization. Those prayers offered hope while she faced a death sentence. She expressed a wish that Christian nurses would realize the importance of offering to pray with their patients.


Often we do not know how our prayers are answered. Connecting with Joanne years later, and seeing the healing in her life, reminded me of the power of prayer. Her story illustrates a patient finding hope in what is, for many, a death sentence. Prayer provided hope. God is the God of all comfort, as Scripture declares. He helps us comfort those who are suffering through the compassion he has shown in our trials.


* Name changed to protect privacy. [Context Link]