Miracle Moments Miracle Moments In Work Life

OR SOME TIME, our rehabilitation department had planned to remove a large hydrotherapy tank that had been used by our patients for more than 15 years. Our staff had been working to replace the outdated equipment with something that would provide more effective and painless methods of wound care. The day neared when the tank was to be permanently removed from the unit.

The afternoon before this was to occur, I received a visit from a woman who said her father had terminal cancer. She went on to tell me that her father, who was one of our physical therapy patients, had suffered for a long time, and that he and his family were prepared for his passing.

She said her father had abandoned the family when she was very young. Now, at the age of 43, she had not seen him for more than 30 years when she had been notified of his illness. She confided to me that it took a long time, with the help of God, to finally forgive her father for everything. She explained that when he requested that she forgive him, she said, “I will forgive you if you agree to be baptized and accept the Lord as your savior.” He agreed.

The woman finally asked the question she had been contemplating. She wanted to use the hydrotherapy tank to baptize her father. At first, I struggled to figure out how this could be done, but then I remembered that the tank was certainly large enough to fully submerge her father for his baptism.

Then I recalled that we were supposed to be getting rid of the tank the next morning! How could I possibly ask for it to remain on the unit after I had pleaded for its removal for so long? How could I explain that I needed the tank just one more time? I looked at her and agreed to proceed with the baptism, but said we would have to conduct the ceremony that day.

At once, I coordinated the arrangements with the man’s family, physicians, nurses and clergy from the family’s church.

We borrowed candles and white linen table coverings from our Spiritual Care Department to adorn the room. The tank was filled with water, and the patient arrived on a stretcher.

In attendance were three members of the hospital’s rehab staff, a church minister, the patient and his daughter. We helped her father into the tank, and the service began. The minister spoke to us about love, praise and forgiveness.

As the service continued, you could actually see a transformation in the patient. One could tell he found a spiritual strength that transcended his cancer-ravaged body as he kneeled confidently with penitence as the minister spoke. His facial expression shifted from despair and pain to hope and contentment. He then prepared for what he knew would be one of the most physically challenging tasks that he had endured in a long time: having to kneel and bend backwards to receive baptism. At that time, the minister submerged the patient and said, “I bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

That is when an overwhelming sense of joy filled the room. I had only felt that same sense of peace and contentment when my own son was baptized. We helped the patient back onto the stretcher, and with an awesome sense of joy, the service came to a close.

The next day, as planned, the old hydrotherapy tank was removed. I thought what a fitting end this was for a piece of equipment that had helped heal the physical wounds of many patients in its time and had now helped heal the souls of a father and daughter, and prepared a man for his final journey to Christ.

Two weeks later, the young lady called to say that her father had succumbed to his illness. He had passed away peacefully at his home, surrounded by family and loved ones. Through his final days, the young woman realized she had not only learned how to love but to truly forgive. She thanked me and the other staff members who had been a part of her father’s momentous day. We may not have cured his cancer, but we helped save his soul.

I remember that day with perfect clarity. A day that began like any other but ended with a miracle.

Jose L. Santos, P.T.
Rehabilitation Services
CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital
San Antonio, Texas