In May 2000 Cathy and I joyfully packed our belongings in Clearwater, Florida and moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas where I was to become one of four medical directors of the Wound Care Clinic of Washington Regional Medical Center. This was to be my first experience in full time wound care having been a general surgeon for 35 years and doing wound care and hyperbaric medicine as a secondary profession. The other 3 directors were actively practicing general surgeons.
The nursing director of the clinic was Diana Gallagher, RN who was very knowledgeable in the field and well respected by her peers in the nursing and wound care field. I learned the general protocol of the hospital from her and others while learning specific wound care principles and the multitude of wound dressing usages from her experience. She was a very able teacher while managing the clinic in a firm but caring manner. The hospital administration had given me permission to continue praying with patients when appropriate and did not object for me to engage patients in spiritual conversations. To my knowledge no other physician had interacted in this manner with patients in this clinic. My impression after about 6 months was most of the nurses encouraged and appreciated what I was doing while a very few were skeptical and perhaps even a little turned off. However, no one was openly critical to me.
In my second year as director I was invited by Mrs. Gallagher to speak in a conference for which she was the conference leader. It was to be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The conference was sponsored by the South Central Region of the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses, and she asked me to speak on Spirituality and Healing. I prepared for several months utilizing information from scientific journals, anecdotal stories concerning specific miraculous healings and personal experiences from my lengthy surgical career.
Several days prior to the conference I began having symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection and developed chills and fever. I knew Diana was counting on me for the presentation and was not going to cancel unless I was unable to speak. Cathy drove the 2 hours to Tulsa allowing me to rest as much as possible. My part on the program was in the early afternoon. Despite having fever and a very hoarse voice I was able to deliver the 45 minute speech, but I don’t remember much about the details of the events.
In my speech I attempted to answer 4 general questions regarding faith and healing; 1) Is God actively involved in healing today or is healing a natural process which was activated in the beginning? 2) What role does faith play in healing? 3)How is personal faith mobilized to activate healing? and 4) What should be my role as a health care provider in the process? I tried to interweave examples from the Bible of some of the miraculous healings in the Old and New Testaments with examples of healings I had eye-witnessed.
In my research I discovered the New Testament contains more than 75 references of the healing work of Jesus. The four gospels record more instances of healing by Christ than his preaching or teaching. In many examples of healing Jesus said to the one healed, “Your faith has made you well.” A great deal of data published in current scientific journals have shown people of faith have fewer illnesses and recover faster from serious illnesses with fewer complications than people who profess no religious affiliations.
It was interesting for me to find a journal article from Johns Hopkins University concerning church attendance and health. In a study involving over 90,000 people in Washington County, Maryland if people attended church 1 or more times per week they had a lower death rate from coronary artery disease, emphysema, cirrhosis and suicide. Another study from Dartmouth Medical School concluded the survival rate in elderly people undergoing open heart surgery was 3 times greater in regular church attenders than non-church attenders.
Modern science has only recently acknowledged the therapeutic benefits of prayer in healing. One of the first articles published in a recognized medical journal was in 1988 in the Southern Medical Journal written by Dr. Randolph Byrd. He concluded of the 393 heart patients in an ICU who had intercessory prayer over them had fewer complications, required less medication and had fewer deaths. Skeptics of his study and similar papers maintained there was no way to gauge the extent of prayer offered and the same results could have been achieved by chance. Those who are opposed to any positive effects of faith in healing will never be convinced otherwise. The Bible says, “Their eyes have been blinded by the God of this world.” (II Cor. 4: 3,4)
In concluding the presentation I challenged the attendees to consider their own beliefs in the Lord Jesus Christ and His claims regarding faith and physical health. I further asked they might begin praying with patients and open the door to discussion with patients of the correlation between spiritual and physical health.
By the time I finished the presentation my throat was so swollen I could barely speak, and my voice so hoarse I don’t see how they could understand what I was saying. The audience was so moved by my feeble efforts to finish they gave me a standing ovation for which I was shocked. In retrospect it was foolish for me to be there, because I certainly must have contaminated the entire conference with an influenza virus. At least I knew Cathy was praying for me, and within a few days I had recovered. I have no way of knowing how many attendees at the meeting developed the flu, but if any perhaps they applied some of the principles I tried to teach.