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to replace the outdated equipment with something that would provide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.
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.
CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital
San Antonio, Texas