Entering the room I expected to see “Mrs. Garcia” sitting awkwardly due to some pain in her right leg. However, she had also listed “depression” among her complaints, I did not know what to expect. I did notice the vacant expression on her face and assumed that the leg pain was not the only thing on her mind.
While Dr.Wills conducted the physical examination I wasn’t interested in the content of the questions he was asking but rather the manner in which he asked them. Contending with the language barrier and aided by the use of a phone interpreter we learned that her pain renders her almost useless at home and doesn’t allow her to get more than four hours of sleep a night. Obviously, these are factors which contributed to her feelings of depression. Right here the questioning could have ended, pain medication, anti-depressants, and sleep medication could have been prescribed, as well as a referral to see a physical therapist and she could have been on her way. However, Dr. Wills chose to delve deeper and involve the other resources available at Siloam.
I accompanied Mrs. Garcia to Rebecca Swift’s office (she is the staff behavioral health consultant) where we learned that when Mrs. Garcia had left Cuba, both of her sons and their family’s application to relocate with her had been denied by the Cuban government. Just listening to her talk about both of her sons and grandchildren – I could see that she was missing a huge part of her life and her heart. While explaining this, she began to cry and I found myself reaching out to pat her back as an assertion of what Rebecca was saying – that she was a good mother and she raised fine young men. When Rebecca had finished, Mrs. Garcia was offered and agreed to prayer from the Siloam Pastor, Doug Mann.
I have had the pleasure of speaking with Doug on occasion and his sense of humor is unmatched, but to see him in this context: praying with a woman who felt alone and worthless, was a true blessing. Through his beautiful words, Doug was able to illustrate to Mrs. Garcia the love that God has for her and the great lengths that He is willing to go to in order to pursue her. As tears continued to stream down her face all she could say was, “gracias,” over and over again. When she was on her way to leave she turned to me, hugged me, and kissed me on the cheek. It was right then I realized that I had witnessed something special in this woman’s life.
I have always understood the term “whole-person care” as not only seeking the physical well-being of a patient but also ministering to their mental, emotional, and spiritual health. In theory this sounds like an excellent way to go – especially when considering that all aspects of health have an impact on one another. However, actually caring for the “whole person” can be a very daunting task for any individual. While I do believe that it can be done, there is definitely a better outcome if a team approach is taken. Siloam has mastered this; not because they try to “fix the problem” but because they truly care and love the people they serve. While there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from a clinical perspective at Siloam, what I am finding most beneficial from my time here is the way they show love and bring hope to their patients.
Elias is a participant in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion.