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When Thirty Seconds Are Enough
by Delton Krueger
Recently it became my turn to
receive attention from caregivers after many years of
giving pastoral spiritual care to others. The occasion
was a radical prostatectomy. This was my first time to
be personally involved in the unique experience of
recovery from major surgery.
In those hospital days immediately after surgery, I
could think only of myself and how my body would deal
with the next few minutes of life. Nurses, doctors and
their associates were working hard to keep up with
urgent needs of many patients. Family members and
friends were coming to visit and doing their best to fit
in with the hospital way of life.
In this high pressure situation, spiritual needs long
for attention. People who care deeply, bring a spiritual
and faithful presence that restores the one who is
working at recovery. However, caregivers may question
the value of their efforts in the midst of intense
medical activities. My experience says that recovery is
given spiritual meaning by the people who come.
Recovery is hard work. It is helpful to think of the
energy being expended by all those involved in surgical
recovery. The person in the hospital bed who appears to
be so quiet is, in fact, working the hardest of all.
Intense effort is being given to reorganize and
reassemble a life. The body has been violated and its
defenses as well as healing mechanisms put into action.
There is little energy available to respond to staff or
visitors. It may appear that the person in the bed is
distant, remote and uninterested in those who come to
show their support. Paying attention to a visitor for
thirty seconds can seem like an eternity to the one who
is on sedatives and unable to move about due to IV
tubes, catheters and other devices.
In the midst of the hard work of recovery from surgery,
there can be brief moments when caregiving people speak
the name of the person in the bed, says their own name,
gives a word of encouragement and then leaves the room
or stays quietly nearby.
Jews and Christians, in particular, speak of such an
event as "Sabbath rest". It is reminiscent of the
Biblical Genesis account of God placing the Sabbath as a
rest in the creation process. These moments offer the
recovering one opportunity to connect with another
person and take a break from overwhelming personal
concerns. Spiritual renewal takes its place in the
healing of a life.
Such Sabbath rest moments will be remembered and
rehearsed by the recovering person when nights are long
and sleep won't come. Such brief encounters are a major
investment in the health of the one who has undergone
surgery. Caregivers can be assured that their presence
is an important part of recovery.
The caregiver says, "What shall I say or do?" The
recovering person says, "Say my name; say your name;
encourage me. Then let me be quiet. My work of recovery
continues. Come back again. Thank you."