In Maria’s dream, waves crashed over her and threatened to overwhelm. While trying not to drown, she heard a voice say, “Ask for help.” So she did. She prayed. When Maria’s daughters were fourteen and eight years old and Maria was pregnant, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. They did what they had to do. Chemotherapy, radiation, repeated visits to the hospital. Maria’s husband died when their baby was eight months old, leaving her in an ocean of grief. Her older daughters were inconsolable at the loss of their dad. The baby, carried during a time of such stress, suffered developmental delay. Maria was working three jobs to support her girls when she voiced her prayer. Someone suggested she apply to St. Mark’s but there was one problem with that. She dreaded hospitals. Maria was hired, so she braved her way to work each day. “Work became my therapy to heal,” she explains. Because her experience affords her compassion for others, she takes time to ask her patients questions, or fetch a warm blanket for them while she is cleaning rooms. Life is still not easy for Maria, “But I am happy here,” she smiles. “God helps me every day.”
Maria works in Environmental Services at St. Mark’s
St. Mark’s Hospital Chaplain Saundra Shanti wanted to connect patients to their caregivers and employees to each other. That’s why she created the Healing Hands portrait series, featuring black and white photographs and stories of St. Mark’s employees at all levels.
“Our patients and families who go in and out know that this is a nurse, and this is a housekeeper, but they don’t know them as people,” Saundra said. “I wanted to humanize our healthcare community to one another and to our families and patients.”
Each photo is accompanied by a story; some biographical, others are anecdotes of experiences that led employees to become caregivers and healthcare professionals. Twelve portraits are currently displayed throughout the hospital, but a total of 36 photos will be rotated throughout the exhibit for the next two months.
By highlighting personal, inspiring and real stories about the staff who will be caring for patients during what can often be an emotional time, the exhibit builds a sense of community. Patients and families will be able to view caregivers as real people with real stories whom they can relate to and connect with, making the hospital experience more personal.
“When we humanize each other, we care more for one another,” Saundra said. “I wanted our employees to be recognized as valuable human beings apart from their professional titles. I wanted to cultivate interaction and respect across our departments and services.”