Prescription: Medicine of the heart

By Contributor Cynthia Barnett

What if medicine was more of a balm for the soul than a drug for the body?

What if the heart of the treatment was compassion from doctor to patient? In other words, a kind of “heart to heart.”

According to Donna Helen Crisp, this more spiritual approach is ideal, practicable and effective. As clinical assistant professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Nursing in Chapel Hill, Crisp wrote movingly in a Dec. 9 “News and Observer” article about the need to address the compassion issue.

She observed, “True compassion replaces ‘niceness’ when physicians understand that suffering is about more than the flesh; that it also encompasses a person’s mind and spirit, hopes and dreams, sense of control and fears about what is to come.”

She added states of thought such as loneliness, hopelessness, powerlessness and loss of dignity may be “invisible yet powerful dimensions of patient suffering.”

Some years ago a friend experienced what she felt were symptoms of heart disease. Accustomed to prayer as a first response to her health challenges, she began considering her own fears or other unwholesome states of thought might be behind the physical symptoms.

A sense of guilt over a family situation surfaced. Memories of a much loved grandmother’s rebuke came to light. Apparently my friend had chosen a life that was not the one her grandmother had wished for her, and the grandmother had lamented many times, “You’re breaking my heart.”

In a flash of revelation, my friend saw she’d done nothing wrong, she’d always loved and revered her grandmother, and she was not the cause of her grandmother’s self-inflicted disappointment. In God’s eyes, they were both innocent.

All guilt was washed away with this prayer-based thought process and in its place she felt compassion for both her grandmother and herself. And, the symptoms of heart trouble disappeared as well.

“It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly,” Crisp quotes Saint-Exupery.

Hearts touch hearts.

Thoughts change, things improve, and we are restored to wholeness.

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