Pushing a cart with heated stones that came from the Dead Sea, bottles of scented oils and her cassette player is Sister Susan O’Neill, a member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, ready to give a massage — sometimes to a person awaiting surgery, sometimes to a new mom, but always to add a personal touch to medical care. A sister giving a massage?When the nurses at Sisters Hospital see Sister Sue coming, they don’t politely say: “Good morning, Sister.” Instead they say: “Here comes Sister Hot Rocks.”…
Even her mother didn’t believe it when Sister Sue told her what she was planning. “She said to me: ‘Now, Susie, that’s the silliest thing I ever heard, just stick with nursing,’ ” O’Neill recounts. ” ‘When you come home, I’ll tell you just what kind of people do such things.’ ”
O’Neill said she learned that a healing touch was as close as her fingertips when she made evening rounds long ago as a hospital charge nurse. “It hit me so strong then that nothing, nothing, can replace our humanity. I have a great belief in the dignity of the body, even when it’s falling apart. I want to care for that. Even when the hands are crippled with arthritis, they are beautiful. I want to comfort that, to bring the healing presence of Christ.”
In the 1 1/2 years since Sisters Hospital opened its massage unit, the first in a local Catholic hospital, there have been plenty of others who are grateful that “Susie” didn’t listen to her mother. They are people who have had knots worked out of neck muscles, whose chronic pain has been eased, who are hungry for touch, whose stress melts into a happy puddle after an hour. Among those coming in for a session of “pressing the flesh” are aging baby boomers whoseek ways to counteract newly acquired aches and pains.
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