Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Life-changing experience

The piece below appears in the March issue of The Carer, which is the newsletter of the National Association of Healthcare Chaplains.

Michael Commane
Greetings from St Luke's Hospital in Rathgar. It's my place of work. Since late August I have been working here in the hospital as chaplain. I have my badge to prove it. It says: 'St Luke's Radiation Oncology Network Michael Commane Chaplain'.

I think I can cut to the quick immediately and say up front that it has been a life-changer.

My background has been in teaching and journalism. Before coming to St Luke's I spent over 10 years working as a press officer with Concern Worldwide and before that I worked at 'The Kerryman' as a sub-editor.

Did other bits and bobs as well but so far that's been the main focus of my working life. Along with that I was ordained a Dominican priest in 1974. I well remember it. It was the day the Germans beat the Dutch in the World Cup in Munich.

It's early days so I am still new and fresh to the job. It means I'm in the perfect place to write down my first impressions.

I have been greatly struck by the welcome I received from the staff and that was made abundantly obvious to me in my first week in the place. The staff could not have been nicer to me. Honestly, they received me with open arms. And some months on, I can still say that. It's a great place to be. And of course it's always people who make places.

What do I do? St Luke's has two oncology wards. It also has a day ward, where patients come for treatment. St Luke's provides a facility which allows patients from outside the Dublin area to overnight Monday to Friday while they are having treatment in one of the Network centres. Upstairs in the hospital there are two step-down wards, which are attached respectively to St James's Hospital and Tallaght Hospital.

My job involves sitting down, listening and talking to people. A former patient sent me a Christmas card, thanking me for being a 'distraction'. I liked it, and thought it more or less summed up what I do. One thing I have discovered is that Ireland is such a small place. I am forever meeting people who know someone I know, and that of course, is always a great introduction.

It's been the privilege of a lifetime to sit down and listen and talk to people. And then the goodness and kindness I see every day from patients, staff and visitors.

Honestly, it's a life-changer.

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