I went back to church for the first time in months. I’d decided to go back to the church I was baptised. It is a very joyous place. My husband refers to it as a ‘happy-clappy, flag waving kind of church’. Now it was also probably a coincidence but on this particular day there was even a confetti cannon. Some of the leadership had just returned from a sabbatical so it was the congregation’s way of welcoming them back but still, come on, a confetti cannon people!
Faith and medicine to me are inextricably intertwined. I could not do what I do without it. It would make no sense.
Many would disagree with this outlook. Now I’m not about to get all judgmental or preachy on the topic. It is a contentious one that’s for sure. However I do want to get into some of it.
In this service we heard about a baby boy belonging to one of the congregation. He was undergoing heart surgery that morning and we were asked to pray for him. I listened to the technicalities of the operation through my medic/science filter – it wasn’t sounding that hopeful. Even if he did survive the long-term outlook was not going to be that hopeful.
Many in the congregation prayed. Now you may question the power of prayer. It’s ok, I get it. How on earth is that going to work? It makes no scientific sense. I’ll be honest, I was even thinking that as I prayed with them.
However in that moment I was struck by just how much energy there was in the room just through the active murmuring of a prayer. Now what is it they say? ‘energy cannot be created or destroyed it can merely be transformed’. That’s science. That’s fact. So where was all this energy going?
It would probably be the right time to mention that the baby survived the operation and is going home. A miracle? My scientific head can’t fully accept that – I know first hand all the scientific wonder that will have gone into making it a reality. However I do believe that a parallel force was also at work.
More than that I know that the family will have been lifted and supported by that positive energy. No medicine can quite do that.
For me that is what faith is all about. It’s the bridge between the incredulous and fact. I see it everyday in work. All of us in healthcare will have had experience of those who, on paper, should no longer be with us and yet they are.
I think too we forget about about the behind the scenes effort that people put in with prayer and support. As doctors we are concerned with the numbers, the tests and results but a lot of the time we don’t ask about the other stuff.
In a time where person centred care is at the heart of what we do, we don’t ask what is in the heart of the person.
I think it’s one of the last taboos in medicine to be honest. No one talks about it for fear of being labelled as a crazy nut job.
Yet, for many faith, is what comforts and sustains them though tough and dark times. A hospital admission is just that for many. So why not ask?
I haven’t quite figured it out myself yet. If the person wants to talk about God then I do as well. After one such occasion one of my trainees said she thought I was brave for doing it but admired my honesty. I shrugged it off at the time. My view is simple – I use my God given scientific brain to figure out the medicine. When it gets hard or makes no sense then it’s my faith keeps me from losing my religion….