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The Making of a Chaplain


As doctors strive for a miracle, this chaplain in training learns how much hearts need healing.

This article appeared in our June 2004 issue. Ten minutes before my shift is over, I am paged to a full arrest code in the emergency room involving a 23-year-old John Doe with multiple stab wounds to the heart. To admit the unflattering truth, I’m seething with resentment — not a nice emotion for the chaplain resident of the medical team. I have managed to get through seven hours and 30 minutes of an eight-hour shift on a Saturday night without anything traumatic happening. Now comes this grisly code. Apparently the young man was stabbed four times by his own brother in a horrendous case of domestic rage. The emergency medical technicians could not revive his heart on the ride to the hospital. Now the medical team, five residents who look younger by the minute, slit a hole in the young man’s side under his arm, while another resident does CPR. This young man is startlingly handsome, far too young to die in this senseless manner, blood spilling from his body like water from a burst water balloon. The chief resident yells for blood, which they keep hooking up to the body in a futile effort. O …

Karen O ’Brien is a chaplain at a large urban hospital in the United States.

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