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In the emergency room at Mercy Hospital a number of years ago, an elderly woman in her nineties arrived by ambulance. She had experienced a bad fall, resulting in a substantial laceration to her forehead. She was disoriented and agitated by the change in surroundings and manifested symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Her speech was gibberish. The emergency room was very busy, and it took quite a while to get started on suturing the woman's laceration. Because of her lower acuity, she was moved to a position between five other gurneys to await her turn for treatment. This led to even more agitation.


As her turn came for treatment, I set up the necessary equipment. The physician arrived to administer the initial anesthetic to deaden her skin. Mayhem ensued at the attempt to inject the woman's laceration. I threw myself against the gurney to prevent it from tipping as the woman flailed. The situation looked hopeless, and we discussed using sedation to calm her because the laceration was much too involved for the use of steri-strip closures.


In the midst of the chaos, I remembered a friend whose father had passed away with Alzheimer's. Until the end of his life, he was unable to utter a single intelligible word and became lost at his own front door. But if placed in his old church amid the singing of hymns, he sang every word. I decided to sing an old hymn on the chance that the woman had grown up in church. I encouraged the emergency room physician to stand by, ready to inject, and as the physician covered us with the sterile drape, I began a feeble rendition of "The Old Rugged Cross."


To our amazement, the woman's voice rose in perfect pitch, every word crystal clear. Her body relaxed as she focused on the song. While the physician deadened her skin and sutured the wound, the patient and I sang. The woman didn't miss a note or word, and before we came to the end of the last verse, her sutures were completed. As we released the drape, the woman began chuckling and resumed her gibberish. I could only guess that she was saying how much she enjoyed the song.

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The other patients and staff were quiet as they witnessed the power of Christ in "The Old Rugged Cross." We recognized that something special had just occurred. The expressive art of music and worship had worked better than any sedative could have [horizontal ellipsis] and with no ill side effects!!


Nursing has long endured a great deal of stereotyping and unreal glamorization. The media often presents a negative nursing image. Yet despite the self-centered focus of our current society, nursing remains a caring, giving, rewarding, uplifting, and people-centered profession. My story illustrates God at work in and through nursing. When we place our hearts into what we do and invite God into the moments we spend with patients, into the difficult challenges that arise in every shift, God meets us. He enters and is able to meet our patients in ways we cannot. He takes our nursing care situations and makes them sacred.