December 19th, 2017
Organizing weddings and funeral visitations appears nowhere in the job descriptions of St. Mary’s General Hospital employees.
But In the space of two weeks recently St. Mary’s chapel hosted two weddings and a funeral visitation, quietly arranged by staff in the spirit of compassion that defines St. Mary’s. All involved end of life situations where staff pulled together to comfort patients and families.
“I think staff appreciated an opportunity to contribute in some way,” says Gary Payne, Manager of Spiritual Care Services at St. Mary’s. “Many different players and services pitched in with no hesitation.”
On October 26 Kurtis Warwick and Victoria MacDonald were married by Rev. Cindy Lee, a St. Mary’s chaplain. Kurtis’ father Peter Warwick had been hospitalized at St. Mary’s for a recurrence of cancer and was expected to live just a few weeks.
The couple decided to accelerate their wedding plans and asked to hold it at St. Mary’s on October 28. Around noon on October 26 Victoria was trying on a wedding dress when she learned that Peter’s doctor recommended the wedding take place that day. Despite the short notice all 25 key family and friends were able to attend.
“That day allowed us to take a heartbreaking part of life and turn it into the most beautiful, loved-filled day,” says Victoria. “It is a day that no money could have ever bought and something we will never be able to experience again.”
The next day, a woman with advanced ALS who was admitted to St. Mary’s after her husband and caregiver died unexpectedly,
was reunited with him in a private funeral visitation in the chapel. Marlene Preiditsch uses a wheelchair, is unable to speak and needs mechanical ventilation to breathe.
Plans were made to transport her to husband Erwin’s funeral, accompanied by a St. Mary’s nurse and respiratory therapist. But she also wanted to attend the visitation. Leslie Waitson, staff trainer on the Medicine Unit, proposed bringing Erwin to St. Mary’s for a private visitation instead.
“Everyone went above and beyond to provide mom with a special way to say goodbye to dad,” says Marlene’s son Joe Preiditsch. “They did this with love and compassion. I saw true peace in my mom’s expressions. It gave her closure.”
The combined effort brought together Medicine, Respiratory Therapy, Spiritual Care, Portering, Engineering and Security. Transporting a casket unobtrusively through the hospital took some creative maneuvering. Nursing, respiratory therapy and spiritual care support was provided to Marlene during her 45 minutes with her husband.
It was an emotional experience for all says Leslie Waitson, adding “I’ve never been more proud to be a member of the team.”
On November 10 the chapel hosted another a wedding, this time for the daughter of a terminally ill patient on the Medicine Unit. Steph Patton, an RN on 500 described the team effort as “a magical collaboration with many moving parts. It makes me so happy to be part of such an amazing organization,” she says.
Father Sam Restivo, who recently joined St. Mary’s Spiritual Care team, is touched by how staff readily go the extra mile. “It is an expression of our legacy and what our founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph, stood for,” he says. “It is wonderful to see that lived out.”