“It’s a beautiful thing going on in there,’’ nurse Barbara O’Donnell told him when he arrived in the ICU. “They don’t want anything else to be done. They’re just crying and loving each other.’’
Winchester, who strives to make religion concrete, told the patient to “think of the Lord as the pillow under your head, and lay back and let him hold you.’’
A few minutes later, Winchester joined doctors and nurses for rounds in the ICU, where he listened for any changes in patients’ health that might necessitate a visit from him - as well as anything he could tell doctors and nurses about patients’ emotional states. Winchester kept track of the patients he needed to visit in a small black notebook stored in the pocket of his tan linen sport coat.
At noon, he helped doctors run a difficult family meeting for relatives of an out-of-state cancer patient who had been in the hospital for months. “When machines work, they’re miraculous,’’ Winchester said he told the family. “When they don’t, they’re in God’s way. Do you want your father to die here or to die’’ near home?
“I was the prophet of doom in some way,’’ he said later. “That’s the word they did not want to hear.’’
Winchester said he is often called in to translate “doctor speak’’ for patients. “Death is a failure as far as [doctors are] concerned,’’ he said. “They have no way of explaining what I’m comfortable explaining.’’
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