Tag Archives: chaplain

EVERY DEATH MATTERS…

If I just treat things routinely, then please tell me to get another job!

If I just treat things routinely, then please tell me to get another job!

IF I ever think of anyone’s passing as “just another death” then it will be time to leave my job. 

Last weekend I was called into hospital to pray for a woman who had died.  

She had been well until a few days ago so her death was a shock for all her children. But an even bigger shocker was that her husband was an inpatient on another ward.

I was still there when the husband was brought across to see his recently departed wife. He asked if I was the Padre and we went together behind the drawn curtains of the bed area, where he wept and spoke to his loved one.  

And the words he spoke brought a stinging to my eyes: “Thank you so much” he said “for giving me a wonderful life. You’ve been so brave and so loving and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”  

Needless to say I was very moved. This death, like all deaths, was unique. Touching a unique number of individuals in a unique way. And the words of this man were spot on. Not just another death in a hospital.  

But the death of a woman who had changed some people’s lives. So with sadness in my heart, and after time spent with the family and (at their request) praying for them all, I left the ward – stopping to say goodbye to a staff member. I could see from her eyes that she had been crying, so I hugged her and we understood the sacrifice and privilege of working in hospital.  

She, too, had been moved by this death – even though she had seen many deaths in her time in the NHS. Thank God that she and I were not hardened to this sadness.  

So if you see me treat any person’s death as “just another death” then tell me to get out of Chaplaincy. And if you – nurse, midwife, medic, administrator, healthcare assistant – view any patient’s passing as “just another…” then well… you can fill in the blanks for yourself.

You can read my column every Monday in Worcester News or visit the website for the article here: http://www.worcesternews.co.uk/news/13878984.David_Southall_health_column__It_s_not_just__another_death_in_hospital_/

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A Woman’s Courage: Patient’s Teach Lessons about the 6C’s Too!

Courage comes in many guises

Courage comes in many guises


Courage comes in many guises. Immediately one thinks of the courage of our armed services in the theatre of battle. Or indeed the courage of those who face victimisation or oppression because of what they believe. In fact, in nursing at the moment, COURAGE is one of the 6C’s which combine to make outstanding care. But it’s easy to miss the attributes and virtues that relatives bring into our hospitals and which are inspirational.

Recently,I have seen COURAGE face to face in my Hospital.

So I was called to a ward and walked into the dimly lit side room and in the gloom made out two figures. A poorly and frail man in the hospital bed, and a woman sitting at his side holding his hand. She was his wife of 40 years, had been his carer for the last decade due to a stroke; and now, when his time was drawing near to leave this earth, was there at his side.

For hours on end, day after day, she would sit with him. When he slept, she rested. When he woke, she reassured him- bringing comfort and peace that no one else could.

And as we chatted, she told me about their life together: of the dogs and holidays; the good times and the bad; and all of it was infused with pragmatism and love. I visited that room a number of times; each time she was there doing what she could, not because it was expected, but because it was the right thing for them.

Now to have an illness yourself is often bearable. But to watch someone you love and are linked to go through something is, well at times, agonising. I did my best for this lady and man. I made her cups of tea; purloined some biscuits; gave her time to tell her story. But I couldn’t walk her journey; merely tread a few steps with her along the way.
She was, I believe, with him when he passed away; but if not- then he still would have known of the love which surrounded him.

We can learn a lot from books; a lot from colleagues; a lot from the internet.
But for me, if I want to know what courage is, I need look no further than this woman.

Now that’s courage.

Treading in the Footsteps of Others: A Chaplain’s Compassion

Others will follow your footsteps easier than they will your advice.

Others will follow your footsteps easier than they will your advice.

I used to play a game on the beach with my daughter when she was younger.
I would walk along the shoreline, barefooted in the wet sand, and she would follow me, trying her best to walk in my footprints and not leave a mark of her own.

It’s easy to think that we are IT isn’t it? Well it is for me at least!
The fact that we are here NOW is obvious. But many have trodden these paths before us, doing the job that we do, making a difference.
We really do stand on the shoulders of giants.

This was brought home to me by a recent email from a retired Chaplain who was a perdecessor of mine: Canon Lisle Ryder.

Lisle had seen mention of my blog somewhere and wrote to express his appreciation. He worked at Castle Street and Ronkswood before the new site and was instrumental in the spiritual care provision (including our lovely Prayer Room) at the present site of Worcestershire Royal Hospital until 2003.

And in amongst all that he went about his business of caregiving and compassionate actions.

Lisle sent me a beautiful poem with a short explanation, which for me sums up what the business of Chaplaincy and care in the NHS are about. It moved me; and I hope it does the same for you.He says:

“This is about Jim (I’ve used his real name). I had been with when his wife had a stroke and he was a wonderful support through her recovery. Later he was admitted himself as a patient and in the meantime his wife Isabel had died. He so much appreciated seeing someone who remembered her.

Jim

You look so pleased to see me
from far along the ward – Jim:
I recognised you after several years and,
returning after analgesia relieved the pain,
shared Communion. Christ’s love
which reminded you of the struggle
of Isabel. Memories re-enacting
that stroke which took so much.
I recalled her first words, that revealed her
Scottish – the long commitment you made
to her recovery. You took her home – risen.
Her life I remember vivid, but her death
is absence.
I left you sorrowful, but
somehow thankful for what we’d known, and shared
and treasured of Isabel – her courage, our faith
made new there at the bedside. Bread
and wine hallowed again and again – risen.

Hope in the Face of Adversity: A Christmas Baby

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

Baby SOPHIA with Mum Alice and Dad Ben (used with permission)

In May I will have been at Worcestershire Royal Hospital as Chaplain for 5 years.

And so every now and then I bump into people who I have met in other circumstances- none more so that this story.

I was minding my own business chatting to a Volunteer in the Main Entrance of the Royal when I noticed a dishevelled man out of the corner of my eye. You kind of get a second sense when you think someone wants to speak with you, and so I asked him if he was OK. His name was Ben, he looked knackered, and he told me why. “My wife Alice is expecting a baby and I have been awake for 36 hours straight.” He said his wife was called Alice, and I wished him good luck and went on my way.

Later that day I was about to go home and I saw him again. This time he still looked knackered but with a dazed air about him; almost floating through the entrance of the hospital (on his way out to have a fag). “How’s it going I asked?” “O Great, she’s had, I ,mean we’ve had, a baby girl.” “Congratulations! Have a cigar!” I said (more a turn of phrase than an anti-health promotion message.”

He told me that their baby was called SOPHIA, and that his partner was called Alice. More than that “Alice would like to see you after what happened before.”

O dear, now the penny dropped. I obviously had some connection to this woman; (not her partner- he was new to me); and so I was wracking my brains.

I went down to post-natal, and when I found ALICE the memories immediately flooded back. Three and a half years ago I had taken the funeral of her son after a pregnancy loss. I remember Alice in particular; vulnerable and still and reserved but full of grief. And I remembered the service, and the blessing I gave to her little boy: “May the Lord bless you…”

And now here she was, and in her arms was a beautiful baby girl. And as Alice saw me her face crinkled into gratitude and relief. “Oh. I’m so glad you’ve come; you’ve really made this time special.”

I was speechless. I’d only just shown my face (and that’s enough to put most people off). I am aware that so often I’m involved in some of the saddest times in peoples lives, and, understandably, they don’t want that bringing back to them by memories evoked by my presence.

But not Alice.

So she passed baby Sophia to me and for a few moments I stood there rocking her and admiring this new life who had emerged into the world. She was beautiful, and fragile, and it felt like I was treading on “Holy Ground”.

And after a moment Alice asked: “Would you say a blessing for Sophia?”

And so, in the same words which were echoed three and a half years ago for her brother for whom time was so short, I prayed for Sophia:

“Sophia, may the Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you. The Lord turn his face towards you and give you his peace.”

And now, one final, bold request. “Can I have a photo and share it on my Blog? No worries if not!” “Corse you can Dave. You’ve done so much for you. We’ll never forget what you’ve done for your Son. We owe you such a lot!”

So glad to be there.
So glad to have, for a short while at least, become interweaved with the story of Alice and Ben and Sophia.
So glad to have witnessed a new life start her journey in the world.

Believe me I know that not all stories have happy endings.
I know that many will, this Christmas, face grief which seems insurmountable.
But for now I pass on a story that speaks of HOPE.

And say that, for me at least, my thoughts and prayers will continue to be with this little ball of ‘WISDOM’.

David Savaged by a Collie: Halloween Weekend Horror!

Teeth bared and ready to bite!

Teeth bared and ready to bite!

I left the house at 7:40am on Sunday morning. No time to be up, especially on my 23rd Wedding Anniversary. The streets were quiet, it was a bright, crisp autumnal morning and I was heading to BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester for a radio interview about the Chaplain’s Blog. A chance to plug the blog and celebrate the fact that it has had over 100,000 views.

I arrived at the car park and met Radio Presenter and all round good egg Malcolm “Boing Boing” Boyden who took me into the building. All was going well- or so I thought. What could go wrong?

I was on the Sunday Show with Michael Collie and the interview started OK, just catching up on the news of the blog and saying how well the blog was doing.

But then the Collie turned…

“You are being a free PR machine for the Hospital. Shouldn’t you as a Chaplain be standing in the middle of this not just plugging one side of the story?”

It is, of course, a good point. And we batted ideas about for another couple of minutes. A bit like a boxing match with some body blows to me. I came back with a left hook and a jab. And it was quite exhilarating!

I left the studio and after the next song, whilst listening in the car, Michael read out two or three entries from my blog and said “Do you think I was too hard on him?”

You can listen to the whole interview here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01jm9gt just slide the tab to 1 hour and 16 minutes.

Now I am being unfair to Michael. He is a nice man, a great radio presenter, and a does a great show. And the point of this post is not to criticise him or the media. Far from it!

The point is to show up the fact that:

YOU CAN’T BELIEVE ALL THE HEADLINES YOU READ!!!

Even those on my blog!

If I had made the title of this post “David on Michael Collie Radio Show” then you might not have read this far! We seem to be attracted to some types of headlines and not to others.

I think there is a better way. I really do believe in the power of Good News. I think that every glimmer of light given off by it can change the world. I think there is a need for a culture of good news in the NHS, and in the country.

So if you feel tricked, or even sad, that this wasn’t a story of me being mauled by a ferocious hound, then there might be a lesson to learn.

And if you were concerned that I have been hurt…well thank you.

Let’s change the world one small act of love, one good deed, or one piece of good news at a time – to paraphrase Mother Theresa.

Oh and finally, THANK YOU MICHAEL COLLIE AND PRODUCER LIZZIE LANE, for continuing to plug the blog. I always appreciate my time with you!

Retail Lessons from AGRO’S: How not to do customer service

I had some disappointing service the other day in a shop – let’s call it Agro’s. I had bought an item that said it would fit my lovely motorbike only to find it was too small. “Could I exchange it for a bigger one?” I asked the Manager. “No,” she explained with a look of derision and contempt, “It’s been opened and used.” When I explained that I had to open the package to see if it fitted, she said: “That was your choice!” When I said I might complain to Head Office, she said, “You can, but they will ask me and I will say it was opened!” It was embarrassing and humiliating, especially with some younger members of the staff smirking in the background. In the end we agreed to disagree, not before I determined never, ever, ever, to shop there again!
Interesting, isn’t it, that one bad experience, colours our view of the whole organisation and leaves a bad taste in our mouths. And so it is with our Hospitals.
Walking around the Royal I see huge examples of courtesy and kindness. People going out of their way to help others; smiling, and going the extra mile in times of huge need. But doubtless, in an organisation this large, some of us are bound to have felt we have been treated shabbily, or even, God forbid, felt humiliated or belittled.
So for those employed by the Hospitals, in whatever capacity,t remember: Careless words harm the reputation of us all. We must challenge it (if we see it) and guard our own words. And for those who have felt a little like me that shop, a bit of lea way is needed. Not everyone is on top form all of the time; and one bad experience shouldn’t devalue all of the good work by hard working professional staff.
So, I will take the high ground and I will shop at Agro’s again – probably!

Farewell Fish: Rev’d Andrew Fisher moves on….

Spooky picture of Andrew!

Spooky picture of Andrew!

Not so spooky picture of Fish

Not so spooky picture of Fish

This is a sad month for me. My colleague and friend Rev’d Andrew Fisher will be leaving the Trust at the end of August. Andrew has been the Chaplain at the Alexandra Hospital and they love him there. And no wonder- his devotion to service, kindness and compassion to patients and staff alike, and his bad jokes have won him lost of admirers.

Tomorrow is Andrew’s leaving do. There will be his final communion service at 10:30am in the Multi Faith Prayer Room at the Alex (just by the main entrance) and then a leaving party afterwards starting at 11:30pm.

Do try and come along to one or both of these, where we will present Andrew with a leaving gift, and no doubt he will have a few words and a bad joke to share with us!

There are also two other things you might like to do.

1) If you want to contribute to his leaving present please give your donations to Switchboard at the Alex. Ruth has gone out of her way to scoot round the wards but she may have missed you. They would be delighted to recieve your gift.

2) If you would like to comment publicly about Andrew’s ministry at the hospital then please use the comment box below, so that everyone can see what a valuable job he has done. I know that many of you have already sent him emails but do a dd a comment below.Andrew goes with our good wishes. It’s a personal sadness to me. He has been a fantastic colleague, a good friend, and I shall miss him.