The Mysterious Hospital Chaplain

Excerpt from A Couple of Miracles: One Couple, More than a Few Miracles


(1970: Los Angeles, CA. Previously, Barry had sex with my best friend, and I left the marriage. I eventually moved back in with him, and we were trying to heal this wound, but I was still feeling deeply betrayed.)


Somehow, I couldn’t help letting the power of my job go to my head. I felt not only important, but indispensable as well. Some days, I felt so disconnected from Barry, that my job was giving me more than my marriage. Somehow, I knew I was on the wrong track, but I ignored this knowing.


Finally, one Friday night, after having not prayed in a long time, I asked God for help. The answer to my prayer came the next day in a way I would never have chosen.


It was Saturday, and Barry was free from medical school responsibilities for the first time in several weeks. We could be together. Instead, I chose to spend the weekend with Dawn, even though I knew this would hurt him very much. I went to Dawn’s house with our golden retriever. Bokie was more like a child to me than a dog. Since I felt so insecure in my relationship with Barry, Bokie was a steady loving presence that I counted on. While I still couldn’t fully trust Barry, I could completely trust Bokie. He was never far from my side.


Dawn and I were talking and, as usual, Bokie was lying next to me. Dawn’s roommate came home and let in her German shepherd. Without warning, the dog instantly attacked Bokie. Bokie was not a fighter and took a thoroughly submissive stance. The German shepherd seemed like he was trying to kill Bokie. I became hysterical and reached for the shepherd’s collar to pull him away. This was a bad move! The dog turned and bit deeply into my hand. His owner finally got him outside.


I went to the emergency room and was told it was nothing to worry about. Back home, sixteen hours later, my right hand contracted into a painful, reddened claw. Barry took one look and said, “Let’s get you to the hospital right away.”


At the hospital emergency room, a hand specialist told me the dog’s fang had penetrated the periosteum, the protective membrane around the bone. The infection was spreading down into my hand bones and, without treatment, threatened to cause the loss of my hand and possibly more.


I was immediately wheeled in for emergency surgery, and emerged with both arms immobilized by needles, tubes, and IV’s. My bitten hand was suspended above me with tubes for draining the infection. My other hand was receiving intravenous antibiotics. I could do nothing but lie in my hospital bed. I had to stay in the hospital four days. I found myself in a room by myself feeling totally helpless.


Barry walked in, and I cried, “I need you so much.” Of course I needed Barry deeply, but I had been hiding that need from both him and me.


“I’m here for you,” he smiled confidently. My expression of needing him helped to open his heart, and the wounding of the past several months seemed to melt away as he held me close. Because of the betrayal and my leaving, Barry had realized his need for my love for the first time in our relationship. Now, it was my turn to let myself once again feel my need for his love.


Barry was asked to leave the room by a hospital official who needed forms signed. Minutes after Barry left, a man walked into my hospital room. He said he was a chaplain, but he had no religious collar or identifying badge. I had not signed a religious preference form and had only been in the hospital for several hours. How did he even know I was there?


With piercing blue eyes and a voice that instantly calmed me, he looked at me and said, “This accident can be the beginning of a whole new life for you.”


I just stared at the man. I felt very peaceful in his presence. He then asked permission to say a prayer for me. Bowing his head, he asked for help for not only me but my marriage as well. Then he was gone as quickly as he came.


I lay there a long time wondering who that man was. How did he know my marriage needed help?


Barry returned and I told him what had happened. “Maybe that was your guardian angel,” he half-jokingly suggested. I smiled through my pain and said, “I think you’re right.”


I found out later that the hospital never sends a chaplain to a patient unless it is requested, and even then, it can take many hours or even days as there were so few chaplains for the number of patients. I now believe it was an angel and certainly the brightness of his eyes suggested that. So many angels helping us just when we needed the help.


Barry came to my room every morning, during his half hour for lunch, and at the end of his day of work as a medical student. He tenderly fed me, washed my face, brushed my hair and supported me in every possible way. Without the use of my hands, I felt completely helpless.


We quietly talked about his betrayal. I shared my hurt and he shared his pain. He said he never imagined his actions would hurt me so much, and again, his vulnerability touched me deeply. I finally believed him.


Day by day, as my wounded hand was healing, we were also healing the wound between us. When the nurses, doctors, and assistants saw us in the room together, they left us alone. There was sacred healing happening on many levels, and everyone seemed to respect our privacy.


On the fourth day, the doctor removed my bandages, drainage tubes, and IV’s. I had my hands and arms back and, more importantly, I had my beloved back. We still had more healing to do, but we were communicating again and had rediscovered how important our relationship was to us. We walked out of the hospital holding each other tightly. We vowed to do what it took to get our relationship on a loving and healthy track.

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