Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Patient Lessons

This beautiful banner of the Divine Master was created by Sr. Chelsea Bethany Davis, FSP

As I’ve been praying the Novena to the Divine Master Way, Truth, and Life, I have been thinking back to recent patients and their families and the lessons they have taught me.
William was back in St. Louis after his first year away at college.  His mother was worried when she realized how much weight he had lost between spring break and the end of the school year.  He had been experiencing quite a bit of abdominal pain and diarrhea, but he thought it was from stress.  We discovered William had Crohn’s disease, and started him on medications.  Numerous medications failed to restore William’s health, and soon he developed a bowel obstruction and required surgery to remove a fairly long segment of small intestine.  He is doing remarkably well and is back at school.  He has transferred to St. Louis University to be closer to home as he begins more aggressive medical treatments to keep his Crohn’s disease in remission.  He receives IV infusions of Remicade in our office every eight weeks.  The nurses who administer his infusions are incredibly impressed by the Way William does not feel sorry for himself that his health and college plans have changed so drastically.  William is always positive.  He commented once that he believes everything happens for a reason.  Once while a nurse was apologizing for having to stick him a second time to start an IV, he commented that what he has gone through is nothing compared to what God allowed his Son to suffer for us.  William’s Way of dealing with his disease is to be grateful that he still has “the opportunity for a long healthy future on Earth and a great eternity in Heaven thanks to Jesus, so how can I possibly feel sorry for myself?”
Theresa is a fifty year-old wife and mother who came in for a screening colonoscopy last month.  She has no family history of colon cancer and had no symptoms.  I was surprised to find a very large cancer in her sigmoid colon.  The post-procedure conversation was not the cheery “see you in ten years for a routine follow-up colonoscopy.”   Instead, I had to tell her and her husband that their lives would change drastically over the next six months as we made plans for scans, surgery, and chemotherapy.  Theresa and her husband were obviously shocked by the news, but before they left they already displayed remarkable peace as they thanked all of us who had taken care of her.  She stated, “I am so grateful that I know the Truth of what is going on.  Before today I was under the false assumption that I was perfectly healthy.  The cancer was already there, and now I know about it.  We have a lot of work and prayers ahead of us, but now we know what we have to deal with.”
I met Lois last Sunday afternoon when I was on call at St. Luke’s Hospital.  Her husband Larry took care of her at home 24/7.  Lois had suffered a massive stroke a year earlier, and although she had been making progress thanks to Larry’s attentive care, she was admitted with aspiration pneumonia and another stroke that unfortunately had left her non-communicative and unable to safely swallow.  Larry had requested a GI consultation to consider placement of a feeding tube to allow him to continue to care for his wife at home.  The neurologist had explained to Larry that Lois had little to no chance of ever regaining the ability to understand words or communicate with the world in any manner.  A well-meaning niece upset Larry by suggesting he just “let Aunt Lois go, since she is essentially just a vegetable now.”  Larry explained to me that he was a retired pipefitter and not a doctor, but he knew a blood clot to the brain could not change his wife of thirty-seven years into a vegetable.  He could not stand the thought of her suffering with hunger or thirst or lack of other basic care.  Larry knew with all his heart that the gift of Life that God had given his wife was still present within her.  If God had not taken her Life, Larry was not going to do anything to unnaturally or prematurely end her Life.  We placed the feeding tube on Monday.  By Tuesday afternoon Larry was administering chocolate (her favorite flavor) Ensure through the tube like a pro, bathing her, and talking to her with the same love and respect I am certain he showed her when he was courting her nearly four decades earlier.
Each day in the Concluding Prayer of the Divine Master Novena we pray, “God, our Father, in your love you sent your only Son to be our Teacher and Lord.  May we ponder His teaching in order to better understand divine wisdom.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”
Without trying to evangelize, William, Theresa, and Larry have taught me the Way to live life with gratitude, the vital importance of knowing Truth, and cherishing the Life that God has given us and those we love.
So at the end of each evening’s Novena I have been silently adding, “…and thank you for the gifts of other teachers in my life who help to show me the light of life that can only come from and lead me to the Divine Master, Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Amen.”

The Divine Master Novena began on Friday, October 16th, in preparation for the Feast of the Divine Master on Sunday, October 25th. Don't hesitate to just jump right in, click here and start today.

Jeffrey E. Mathews, MD, has been a Pauline Cooperator since October 11, 2009. He and his wife, Carolyn, are blessed with three sons and two daughters. Dr. Mathews is a gastroenterologist in St. Louis, Missouri.  He likes to travel when able, and he has a love for languages. He has studied French and Chinese in the past, and he is currently studying to become more fluent in Spanish.


Maryann Toth said...

Beautiful article, Jeff. Thank you for sharing these inspirational stories!

Maryann Toth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sr. Donna said...

Yes, these are beautiful reflections and powerful examples. Sharing.
Blessings in Jesus Master, Jeff!

Rae Stabosz said...

I echo what Maryann writes. Inspirational indeed. It resonates with me particularly because this year I am faithfully making the novena. The Daughters have a beautiful music CD of it. I am cruising at the moment but when I get back home I'm going to put it on repeat in my car. I recommend it. I've been singing it in my head as I silently pray the novena.