There in your hour of need

Going to hospital can be a traumatic time for patients and visitors.

James Marston

Going to hospital can be a traumatic time for patients and visitors. Medics acknowledge that spiritual well-being can contribute to the physical health of the patient. Today JAMES MARSTON finds out more about the hospital's chaplaincy team.

IF you've ever been in the chapel at Ipswich Hospital you'll know it is a peaceful place.

Away from the hustle and bustle of one of the hospital's main corridors, it offers a restful atmosphere to those anxious about their loved ones or their health.

Simply furnished, it is a place of reflection and prayer, remembrance and hope and the chaplaincy team are always on hand to offer support and a helping hand.

The Rev Rosie Finch, hospital chaplain, is one of the team dedicated to spiritual and pastoral care at the hospital.

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She said: “Coming into hospital, even for a short, planned visit, can make you and your family very anxious. Our team of chaplains and spiritual and pastoral care givers work together across the denominations.

“They visit wards regularly and are available to listen to your hopes and fears, joys and concerns and will support you confidentially in whatever way is appropriate.”

For Simon and Jo Walkey, of Jaguar Close, Ipswich, the chaplaincy has offered the support they needed in times of terrible grief.

Jo, 34, said: “We first met Rosie when we lost our first baby and she did the funeral for us. He was called James and he died when he was born prematurely at 20 weeks in 2007. It was a difficult time. He was born on June 8 and Rosie was on call and supported us then.

“We are both Christians and have a faith and I got a lot of comfort from Rosie and coming to the chapel. She has kept in contact with us and it has been good to talk to someone other than the medical profession. The support of the chaplaincy here was very valuable to us.”

In October the chapel hosts a memorial service held for babies who have died.

Jo added: “We came along to that and Rosie kept in contact with us through those times.”

Today Simon and Jo have much to celebrate. Their son Harry is now a year old and thriving.

Jo said: “I got pregnant six weeks after we lost James. He was born at 26 weeks and Rosie regularly prayed with us and for him. Harry was in hospital for 19 weeks and he needed a lot of support, he was on a ventilator for three weeks.”

Simon, 37, who works as a software engineer, said: “I think it is good there is a team of people to support people like us. You can find comfort in your grief. We didn't know if Harry was going to live and the chaplaincy team were with us through what happened. Jo came to the chapel every day.

“We know there were other parents of babies who did not have a faith but they still found the support offered invaluable. It gives you hope as well.

“It is a great support and I don't know how we would have coped without it. We would encourage people to come here and use the chaplaincy service, you don't realise what a strain being in hospital can put you under. It is very helpful.”

And how's the little one today?

The couple's faces light up.

“Harry is doing really well now, it's like he wasn't born early at all,” Simon added.

For 36-year-old Jeanette Darien, of Wherstead Road, the chaplaincy was also a place to where she turned when her son Tafari was born at 27 weeks.

She said: “I was working one day and the next I was told I was going to be delivered immediately. It was a real shock and he was very small, he was only 1.1lb and his life was in danger.

“He had a ventilator and then he had an infection in his tummy. He was very ill and he was almost lifeless. It was traumatic.”

Jeanette said she came to the chapel and spoke to the chaplaincy team throughout her torment.

She said: “Our prayers were answered and if I ever had a problem I came to Rosie. The team helped us a lot, they are very nice people.”

The chaplaincy team consists of Church of England, Roman Catholic and Free Church chaplains - most are part time. There is also a part-time organist.

Services are held in the chapel, there is a prayer board, candles can be lit and there is a book of remembrance. The chaplaincy also can arrange multi-faith representatives for those with other than Christian faiths.

Rosie, who is a Church of England priest, said: “We are here to offer pastoral and spiritual care to all staff, visitors and patients and to people of faith and to people of no faith. We work together as a team and we support one another.”

David Flower is a Baptist minister and full-time hospital chaplain,

He said: “I think people also take comfort from our physical presence in the hospital. We are approachable and we have one of us on call 24 hours a day.”

None of the team preaches Christian conversion or conversion to their particular church - the chaplaincy is not that sort of ministry.

Tom Lowe is from the United Reformed Church.

He said: “We offer support regardless of church background and we see people as friends in Christ, we offer friendship ministry, we respect the individual.

“We have prayers every morning and we meet every morning to discuss what we are doing each day.

“Our role with other members of staff is also important. They share with us their concerns and we value out relationship with them.”

Rosie added: “We have a team of 40 volunteers who work on a rota basis and they help take Holy Communion on to the wards.”

Offering the sacrament of Extreme Unction (the last rites), emergency baptisms and the laying on of hands if requested, theirs is also a healing ministry and they work closely together.

The team are often witness to personal and intimate moments at every stage of life.

Rosie said: “The power of prayer can be very calming and if someone is terminally ill we pray for spiritual wholeness and peace and when a baby is born we offer a service of thanksgiving in a service on the maternity ward and give a copy of the New Testament for families to take home.”

Holy Communion is distributed on the hospital wards each week - often by the dedicated chaplaincy volunteer team. All spoke of the emotional and humbling experience that administering the sacrament at the bedside and on the wards can be.

Margaret Washington, has been a volunteer for six years.

She said: “I had a religious experience when I was 38 and I deeply felt my faith has led me into healing. I was aware of the healing ministry of Jesus and I volunteered for be part of this work.

“I find that during the administration of Holy Communion there is also a deep healing power within the sacrament and a lot of people feel better after taking communion. It is a privilege and an honour and it is such a humbling experience.

“I believe this is where Jesus wants me to be and serve him. It is my Christian calling.”

Ray Mallett, 62, has volunteered with the chaplaincy for 13 years.

He said: “I was approached by the Chaplain about 13 years ago. I had a faith throughout my working life and I was employed as a theatre nurse. I am the chapel sacristan and I am responsible for chapel artefacts and silver. I assist the chaplains during the services.

“It is very humbling to be at the bedside. People befriend you and take you into their confidence.

“You give people something you don't realise you are giving at a time when they need it most.”

Derrick Markham, 61, volunteered about 13 years ago - he is the chapel organist.

He said: “I play for the Sunday services, Holy Communion in the morning and a songs of praise service in the afternoon. I am also part of the Eucharistic ministry and we conduct the small bedside services. My working life was in the defence industry and I saw things in different parts of the world which as a Christian were very difficult. I thought I would like to give back the time I now have to help people in hospital. And to give people support in times of distress.”

There were 2,860 ward visits by chaplains and volunteers from April 2007 to March 2008.

The Chaplaincy also ministers to St Clement's Hospital and Minsmere House.

There were 1,511 Holy Communions administered to patients on the wards from April 2007 to March 2008.

Last year there were three memorial services for staff who died in the hospital chapel.

There were three emergency baptisms from April 2007 to March 2008.

The Christmas period includes carol singing on the hospital wards as well as carol services in the Chapel.

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