Over the next few months, I hope to share stories of my work as a resident chaplain at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. First, allow me to introduce myself.
My path to this position at Baylor Dallas has not always been easy. It is marked by family pain and sacrifice that shapes my patient interactions today.
Born in San Antonio, I spent much time at my grandmother’s place, an apartment in the housing projects. They were filled with all sorts of hazards that were harmful to a young boy’s health, such as drugs, alcohol, gang violence, gambling and murder.
Both of my parents were from broken homes and met there in the projects as young teenagers. They were married after high school and stayed together until my father died in 2002. It was not a match made in heaven, but it took heaven to keep them together.
Dad battled with drug addictions, fighting to suppress the abandonment he felt since his mother left him to marry his stepfather. He eventually lost his kidneys, in 1985, and I donated one of mine to him in 1986. He lost that kidney the next year and relied on dialysis until he passed away.
Watching my dad go through the multiple surgeries to replace the shunt in his arm when it would become infected and seeing him faithfully meet his dialysis appointments three times per week had become routine. He also had a triple bypass surgery and, as he recovered from that, he would still say, “Thank you, Lord.”
I had the arduous task of journeying with him through that span of his life, which has helped to shape the ministry work that I performed as a palliative care intern. I didn’t have hospital ministry on my “to-do” list, but I believe that I was called to this endeavor by God and that he placed me in this ministry for a good reason.
I have worked in a variety of professions, including corporate and law enforcement, in addition to experiencing quite a few hospital situations that have given me valuable insight when dealing with patients and their families. I am able to relate to many of the fears and feelings that they are experiencing, which has a way of making them feel connected and heard as we talk through the ordeal.
Still, I must admit that I get fearful when I see cases that deal with renal failure. It has a way of making me peek into a dark window where I see myself ailing from similar symptoms that are caused by the loss of kidney function. I try and treat the patient the way I would want to be treated and I believe that is why I am so effective in this ministry.
The best part about being in hospital ministry is being a team player with some of the best health care professionals in the nation. Watching them work in nail biting crises where a life is on the line is intense. It is amazing how they keep their wits about them as they fight to save the patient’s life. They always show respect for our chaplains and for the valued service we bring in those situations. It is the calling of a lifetime and I am so honored to be an intricate part of it.