A Physician-Evangelist Partnership

Relating the physical and the spiritual.

By J. DEWITT FOX, M.D., Lettennan General Hospital, San Francisco, California

It was midnight. A white-capped nurse  called a slumbering intern from his warm bed. "A patient on my floor has intense abdominal cramps. Doctor, will you come and see her?" "All right," condescended the sleepy in­tern.

On arriving, the intern found a twenty-five­year-old mother afflicted with chronic ulcera­tive colitis. The disease had ravaged her body. She was a mere shell. Her marked weight loss had been caused by repeated bowel movements, often fifteen to twenty a day. Food rushed through her intestines at a rate which prohib­ited absorption. Each bowel movement was ac­companied by sharp, lacerating pains, intense and excruciating, which caused her to double up in agony.

The doctor knew her background. Her hus­band had been overseas during the war. Cer­tain rumors of his infidelity had drifted home to her as she mothered two little children, alone in a humble country home. Sanitation being poor, she had contracted an intestinal infection. Now she was unable to overcome it while in a tortured state of mental insecurity.

The "man in white," fatigued and discour­aged over the case, quietly stepped into her room. On sight of his white uniform, her eyes lighted up. A sweet smile stole over her lips. "Oh, doctor, I'm so glad you have come. I'd like to see your pastor. I've been lying here worrying over myself, my children, and my husband. I can't solve the problems. Although I refused to see your pastor before, will you call him now ?"

He assured her the pastor would call in the morning. Turning to the nurse, he gave orders for some warm fomentations to the abdomen. Fomentations, as he prescribed them, were a unique procedure in this hospital. It would in­volve arduous work at this late hour, but he in­sisted. The excellent results which these treat­ments produced commanded the respect of the nursing staff.

A few minutes of fomentations and the pa­tient's abdomen relaxed, the cramping ceased, soothing sleep closed her worried eyes. No medicines were ordered. No sleeping potion. Simple measures relieved the pain, brought mental tranquillity, physical relaxation.

This patient had been using narcotics and sedatives. She expected the doc­tor to order more, but by instituting hydrother­apy in the form of a warm, moist pack, he ob­tained relaxation by natural means, without drugs. Serene, natural sleep, induced by mental and spiritual repose and bodily relaxation, has infinitely more rejuvenating power than drugged slumber, and thus the depressing after­effects are avoided.

Next morning a gracious young pastor from the local Seventh-day Adventist church knocked softly at the door of this patient. A miracle in treatment seemed to begin the mo­ment he was introduced by the physician. The minister remained only half an hour, but it was time enough for this mother to pour out her woe from a bleeding heart to a sympathetic and attentive counselor. She confided more com­pletely in him than in her attending physician. He was able to offer her more time for the pur­pose. After a brief, earnest prayer in which the Great Physician's healing was invoked, the kind pastor took his leave. He placed in her hand a little booklet, God Cares.

A few days later the doctor called the pastor. "What did you do for my patient, pastor ?"

"Why, doctor?"

"She is making a miraculous recovery. The staff physicians can't understand it. Her bowel movements have decreased. Her cramps have eased. Best of all, her general condition is im­proving. She eats better and sleeps soundly. She has a smile for the nurses in the morning."

The patient, in jubilant spirit, left the hos­pital a short time later. The young intern had a confidential chat with her husband. By un­raveling a tangled home problem, he helped to smooth the way for a new life of happiness for this couple and their children.

Unconsciously this doctor practiced a three­fold therapeutic formula learned at the College of Medical Evangelists. This medical school is unique among schools of medicine. It is the first and only one to teach a spiritual approach in solving physical ills. It has pioneered in the treatment of the patient as a whole—not merely treating a disease or a diseased organ. There­fore, it has the potentialities of becoming a leader in the field of psychosomatic medicine, which today is gaining increased attention by the medical profession.

By treating the spirit, the mind, and the body simultaneously, this young medico was proving to himself, and to the nurses who looked on, that our methods work wonders. When the body is restored to its normal function by God-designed methods, we have God on our side as­sisting in the healing process. This we cannot claim when we rely on pharmacological agents alone.

Thus, a C.M.E. graduate utilized God-given methods in treating the sick. He put into prac­tice wise counsel presented in Ministry ol Heal­ing, which has been reiterated and confirmed by modern scientific texts on psychosomatic medicine, physical and preventive medicine. By recognizing the inseparable mind-body rela­tionship, he eased a psychosomatic ill which drugs alone never could have cured.

Only when the physician comforted the frus­trated mind of this patient, at the same time ministering to her body, was he successful in bringing relief. Not until he called in his right-hand partner, the pastor, did he clear up the social and spiritual problem which was the root of the illness.

By his presence at the midnight hour this doctor brought assurance and hope to his pa­tient. A cure not only for her physical malady was needed, but also for her mental problems, which actually were producing and aggravat­ing the intestinal disease. In offering to call a minister, he had dropped the suggestion of Someone greater than trained physicians, to whom she might look for strength and comfort.

Physicians who call in a sympathetic and understanding clergyman render inestimable service to the mentally distraught patient. Many hospitals do not have a chaplain. But it is the duty of the doctor to see that the patient re­ceives spiritual therapy. Catholic patients sel­dom go unattended by the priest while they are in the hospital, whether the hospital be Catholic or Protestant. Priests are fully cognizant of the need for spiritual comfort at this time, especially for seriously ill and surgical patients. They know the tenderness of a sick patient's heart toward religion. They dispel the fear and anx­iety of the patient, instill a confidence in God, a hope for the future. Many hospitals have rigid rules stating that the Catholic priest be called to visit such patients, and in many cases a nurse will call the priest as soon as the patient is admitted. Protestant pastors are extended the same courtesy when they request it.

Here is where the physician-pastor partner­ship can do much to impress upon the hospital patient the true love which our denomination has for medical missionary work, and our per­sonal interest in the sick. Doctors should be on the alert for patients who will benefit by the ministrations of a godly pastor. Likewise, the shepherd of the local flock should never let one of his number go unattended while in the hos­pital. A bedside visit to one of our members may open .the way for giving a ray of hope to a patient in the same room or ward. Conscien­tious and devoted care shown by our pastors for their own members will attract favorable comment and serve as an inspiration to nurses and doctors not of our faith.

Pastoral visits to the sick should not be deep, doctrinal studies. A few words of comfort, a brief prayer, a little remembrance in the form of a book, pamphlet, or health magazine, will be seeds sown on fertile soil, seeds which in due season will burst forth into a blossoming and fruitful soul. Meantime, a patient and a church member has been endeared to his pastor, and the patient will look upon his church as a living church. "Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father . . . I was sick and ye visited Me. . . . Then shall the righteous answer, . . . when saw we Thee sick, or in prison, and came unto Thee? . . . Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me."

The physician-pastor partnership is a suc­cessful method of holding our church members, and attracting new members. Doctors, minis­ters, let's team up to bring physical healing, mental peace, and salvation to a sin-sick world.

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By J. DEWITT FOX, M.D., Lettennan General Hospital, San Francisco, California

April 1948

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