A HIPAA Farewell

One of the difficulties of being a hospice chaplain is that I hear so many stories that are not told. I can’t tell you the patient’s name, age or gender. I can’t tell you about life experiences, diagnoses or living situation. Because of HIPAA regulations, I am honoring their privacy and the nation’s healthcare policy. I want to write more about the people I journey with each week… but this is all I can say:

In memory...

In memory…

Dear Patient,

I honor your memory.
I listened to your stories, and heard your fears.
I laughed at your relative’s antics and celebrated their accomplishments.
I wondered with you at why you were still alive.

I celebrate your courage.
You trusted the hospice team with helping you cope with your pain and discomfort.
You were honest in giving us feedback.
You accepted help, increasingly, grudgingly, and allowed us to see your independence and your determination.

You touched my heart.
You shared your witticisms, your honest evaluation of life, your worries.
We walked many miles in your questions and memories.
You taught me as I listened.

I know you are at peace.
Even though I know in my heart of hearts
that all of our hospice patients are close to death,
I wasn’t ready.
I didn’t want to accept it.
And yet it was God’s time.
It was the moment you were waiting for, praying for.
I know your family is sad but relieved.
I know we did our best to make your death gentle and peaceful.

I will miss you.
Until the next time –

A Chaplain’s Perspective on Ebola

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV

The media panic has begun. Better than a hurricane or the dreaded “polar vortex,” every news station in town last night documented the orderly (and legal) transfer of a nurse with the Ebola virus to the NIH Clinical Center for treatment. One station had the hashtag “FactsNotFear” but then went to a live shot of a breathless, wide-eyed reporter explaining that “some people” were upset to have an Ebola case in their community.

After all, many of the people who work at the National Institutes of Health take public transportation! There’s a Metro stop right beside the campus! Buses from all over the county stop there! Montgomery County has Ebola!


As a healthcare chaplain, and someone who trained at the NIH, I have a few opinions. ;) Let’s break it down a little…

1. The NIH is well-suited to treat and contain infectious diseases.

Not only do they have state-of-the-art medical care, they have immunologists, epidemioloists, geneticists, and infection control experts who know how to maintain a safe clinical environment for patients, families and employees. They isolate, treat and develop best practices on disease management.

In 2011-2012, there was an outbreak of the antibiotic-resistant bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae, a so-called “super-bug.” A patient came to the Clinical Center for treatment, bringing the disease with her — from a New York hospital. The bug spread, and out of 18 patients, 11 died. According to their own studies, 6 of the deaths died from the infection itself, and 5 died as a result of their underlying condition. These patients were not healthy individuals, but were among the sickest seeking experimental treatments for their underlying diseases. Their immune systems were compromised.. And NONE of the patients were employees or family members. Using genome sequencing and care infection control practices, the cases decreased.

Not just anyone can visit the NIH campus. You go through a security checkpoint unless you have a keyed ID badge which allows you into specific parts of the campus. If you drive on the campus, even with an ID, your car/bags are checked. (Think airport security without taking off your shoes and doing the body scan hokey-pokey.) If you don’t have an invitation or a reasons to enter the campus, you don’t get on it. (Case in point: Reporters had to stick with aerial shots of the campus last night, as no one could get close to the ambulance and its accompanying motorcade.)

Therefore… There is no risk to the general public. There is no risk to the employee population at the NIH.

Deep breath, people. Moving on…

2. Ebola is not as contagious as other viruses already prevalent in our world.

Take a look at this graphic from NPR:

Think about it – there are vaccines for mumps and measles. People choose not to immunize. They are generally at higher risk for getting measles and mumps than Ebola. No, vaccines, don’t “prevent” you from getting the disease. But they do decrease your chances with something called “herd immunity.”

You are at greater risk of getting HIV than Ebola. This of course is mitigated somewhat by understanding how the virus is transmitted and decreasing risky behaviors. I have every confidence that the same will be true for the Ebola virus.

3. Use your noggin. If you are sick, stay home! See your doctor if you have risk factors that suggest you could have been exposed to Ebola.

It’s common sense that if you have a fever, nasal congestion or vomiting, that you should not travel. Or go to work. Or to school.

But I can promise you that on any given day, there is a kid who has a snotty-nosed virus in class who should have stayed home in bed. Attendance is taken, and heads roll if you miss too many days. (Even on the college level, students can lose credit for a class if they miss too many days.)  Conversely, there are awards for “perfect attendance” — an award that should be banned.

It’s true of those in the workplace, too. We all know (or have been) that worker who has the flu but goes to work out of fear of retribution. Yes, they know they are probably infecting others, but they go anyway. They cough, bark, snort and sniffle their way through the day. A couple days of isolation would be a good thing, but we punish those who follow standard infection control procedures.

4. Wash. Your. Hands.

If you don’t know how, look up a video. (There are many available on line.) Soap and water, friction, time and using paper towels are simple things. Be wasteful. Use more than one paper towel. (And please forget that TED talk guy who insisted you only need 1 towel. He does not know what he’s talking about. When I showed it to one of my colleagues who is an experienced infection control nurse, she about had a stroke.)

If you prefer to be really sure that you won’t get the flu or another viral infection, here’s a simple solution:

(Sarcasm font off.)

In all seriousness, this is simply not something that should cause panic. Go wash your hands and hug the people you love. And as Douglas Adams would say, Don’t Panic. And carry a towel.

Today, I Choose Beauty


Today, I choose Beauty.

I know there are wars and conflicts,
Disease and death,
Selfishness and greed,
Abusers and liars.

I choose Beauty.

I choose Beauty because of the sights around me that take my breath away.

I choose Beauty because I have seen Love acted out in a million different ways.

I choose Beauty because I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and a car that works.

I choose Beauty because I have the ability to act in ways that show Beauty to others.

I choose Beauty because the One who created it paints the trees and fall flowers with a wild paintbrush of color, a riot of joy.

I choose Beauty.

The “OFF” button

This weekend I have been practicing something that I haven’t done in a long time. I practiced using the “OFF” button. This particular one is on the cell phone issued to me by my employer. Though I am not required to use it to field voicemails and answer emails, on previous weekends, I have “just taken a quick look” at what is waiting in the queue. I’m not expected to be available on evenings and weekends. If they need me, they know how to find me!

As a pastor, there is ALWAYS another call to answer, another email to write. It’s ministry; there’s no timecard to punch. It’s part of our calling and our passion – to love and serve God and our people.

I love what I do, but I’m learning that as a hospice chaplain, the needs and questions are non-stop. I want to be helpful. I want to be there when I’m needed. But I can’t be “on” all the time. I just can’t. There is no “S” on this “Super Chaplain’s” chest!

The problem is, the emails and voicemails ping over to my phone 24 hours a day. If I forget and leave the ringer on, the little “beep-beepity-beep” is audible, even if I leave it in another room. (I guess my hearing is too good.)

So this weekend, after a couple of heart-breaking cases, I decided to turn off my phone. For the entire weekend. I buried it in the bottom of my work bag, and left it there. And it’s been a good thing.

Daughters were home for part of the weekend, and I did a lot of cooking and baking. My husband and I both got a lot of non-work tasks accomplished. I read, knit, and relaxed. I stopped and admired the leaves as they are beginning to change. I spoiled 2 cats. I wrote more for the essays I need for my certification paperwork.


In short, I let other things go and focused on those things (and people) who were more important at the moment. I absorbed the love and beauty around me. I cleared my mind and my heart. Once again, I learned the lesson inherent in resting and waiting:

It. Can. Wait.

Friday Five: October Random Edition

RevKarla brings us this week’s Friday Five!

Hello gals and pals,
It’s the second Friday of the month, and you know what that is~~~Random Friday Five! Have fun, and enjoy!

1. How do you sign off in your emails, professional and personally? For example, you say “Blessings”,
“Take Care”, “Remember, the Devil is watching you” (o.k. just kidding on that one.) Let us know and why…

Wow. I didn’t really think about this. In some of my professional emails, I type “Peace”. Sometimes I just put my initials. In others I say, “ROCK ON.” Why? Truly it’s a random thing. Just like this week’s Friday Five. :)

2. If you were an animal TODAY, what is it and why?

I am a cat. Because I want to nap. Now.

3. If you get snarky, what triggers it? If you don’t get snarky, please, what is the secret?

Perky people make me snarky. Saccharine, chirping, people. Especially early in the morning. It’s why I have this mug:


4. Look up from your computer/tablet/phone screen. What is the first favorite thing your eyes land on. Describe it. 

This darlin’ kitty who is snoozing…


5. Do you have a favorite pair of socks? Tell us about them!

My lucky Buckeye socks!!


A Well-Examined Life?

That it may please thee to give us true repentance; to forgive
us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and to endue
us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit to amend our lives
according to thy holy Word,
We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

Book of Common Prayer 


Today is Yom Kippur, one of the holiest of days for my Jewish friends and co-workers. Yom Kippur has a two-fold theme: atonement (kapparah) and cleansing (taharah). Self-examination and fasting is part of the day’s religious observances. Many of my co-workers and friends are spending time today reflecting and repenting, and remembering that sin always deserves punishment.

Even non-Jews can participate, to take time to reflect. At work, we were challenged to do this by our boss. To make time to consider how we could be better people, better friends, better family members. It was a good reminder. Reflection, confession and receiving forgiveness are acts that take time. They are not rote. They need intentional awareness.

IMG_6499I went about my morning doing some chores like laundry and dishes, using the time to pray. The house was quiet, and I tackled one of my least favorite chores: cleaning the bathroom. (It’s not that I don’t clean my shower. I do. I just don’t give it a good scrubbing. More like a lick and a promise.)

There’s nothing like really doing a deep clean to find all of the bumps and imperfections. Where you need to do a quick fix or a careful repair. Where you find dirt that you didn’t expect to find dirt. (And are left to wonder, why were there spiders living UNDER the seat in our shower?)

For many of us in Christendom, we participate in services each week that include an element of confession. The words are familiar, we can almost say them from memory. Sometimes, we say them on autopilot.

My intention this week is to pray with more attention to my words. To make them heartfelt, honest and real. I want my prayers to be a “deep clean” — not just a lick and a promise.


O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world,
Grant us thy peace.