Debbie Slavin, with her husband, John (far left), and friends.
When the Nurse Became the Patient
EDITOR'S NOTE: This time she was the patient, not the caregiver. Debbie Slavin, a registered nurse at Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., shares some of her recent experiences in the hospital and rehabilitation facility following hip surgery. Debbie is a member of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
I have worked at Miriam Hospital for more than 30 years. Some of my co-workers know my work with Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy. Some know only that my faith means a great deal to me.
Being brought into the pre-op area in preparation for my hip replacement, another nurse who serves on a committee with me saw the red string of the blue scapular that I wear. I had taken off the scapular medal at home and placed the cloth scapular around my neck in its place. "I see the string," she said. "No one is going to ask you to take that off. I will be sure of that. I know how important it is to you." The next I knew, she was reminding the anesthesia staff to not remove my scapular. What a gift that was. I was so grateful.
I brought to the hospital some of my wooden rosary beads and Divine Mercy images, leaving them on the bed table. I didn't say a word about them, and I didn't need to. It turns out they served as inspiration for others to ask for one.
In my recovery, some people saw me praying the Rosary with EWTN. The Catholic chaplain, Fr. Pieroni, came to see me after surgery and anointed me again. He saw my breviary, rosary, and images, and he said, "You need a prayer shawl." He then left and returned with one and thanked me for being a witness.
At St. Elizabeth's Home, a rehabilitation center in East Greenwich, R.I., where I stayed following surgery, I met so many wonderful people. I again placed on a table near my chair some sacramentals, including Divine Mercy images, a rosary, and holy water from Fatima, Portugal.
On my first night there, one of the night aides came in to check on me. She noticed the Divine Mercy images and the rosaries. She said, "Someone is working tonight who you have to meet. She loves Mary and the Rosary, and looking at all I see here, she needs to meet you." So in comes the aide, with Mary Marfeo, a nurse, who happens to be Judy Studers' daughter.
We hugged and cried. I don't know if Mary ever got around to telling her mother, but we both smiled. God places us all where He wants us. For me, it was a great comfort on that first night.
My roommate asked me how I could continue to have faith amidst all the pain and difficulties in this life. I told her about the Diary of St. Faustina. She responded that she had the book but never read it. I asked to her to try to read it and to remember that the Lord has been walking with her and that He will continue to walk with her.
During my stay, people came and went and took the rosaries and images I had left on the table. That was heartening. A rosary and image was mailed to Guatemala, where one of the nurse's aides has a brother with cancer.
A new roommate came two days before my discharge. She was 91 years old. She asked what I was wearing. I told her about the shawl. She said she wanted one. I called the Catholic church in the same town, and they knew of a parish with a prayer shawl ministry. I gave them my roommate's name and room number and the name of the facility, and they promised to get one to her.
Also, I attended a Rosary on a Friday afternoon led by a volunteer. The Rosary group mostly consists of long-term residents. "Who are you?" the volunteer asked me, and I told her I was there to recover after hip surgery. I also told her I'm a Confraternity member of the community of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. She thanked me for being there, and she told me that the Rosary group has very few rosaries to share. I told her I would bring some to the group.
My friend Mary Kay Volpone at the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge, Mass., put some cord rosaries in the mail for me, along with pocket-sized Divine Mercy images. I waited for them to arrive, and on Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes — the day I made my original consecration to Jesus through Mary several years ago, and the day before my discharge — the box arrived. I took a nurse's aide with me, and, going to the chapel, I placed the images and rosaries in the box for Pat to find. I told the aide, "You have seen where they are placed, and if you hear of someone looking for a rosary, I trust you will help them." With wide eyes, she said, "I will."
Enclosed in the box from Mary Kay were also copies of the registration to the Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy conference in May at the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, Mass. I left those for the taking, along with pocket-sized Divine Mercy images, which have the emergency nurses prayer.
After doing this last thing, a sense of peace came over me. I felt my work there was done and it was time to go home. I say "work," but really I did nothing other than to have the image of our Lord present. He drew the people to Himself and the Rosary, and He reminded them of the loving presence of Mary Immaculate.
"May the Virgin Mary's Immaculate Conception be our health and protection."
— Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski