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Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit


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Florence Nightingale: Mother of Nursing

By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Having worked at Vancouver General Hospital and Woodlands Hospital as a medical Social Worker, I have met many impressive nurses in my life. Recently a nurse lent me a book about the life of Florence Nightingale, the mother of modern nursing. I was astounded by the pervasive lasting impact of Florence’s life. Florence was a one-woman dynamo. Nothing stood in her way. No inefficiency, no corruption, no bureaucracy could ultimately stop her from bringing healing to countless suffering people, particularly those impacted by war. While Florence was a caring individual, she was no ‘pushover’, but rather a brilliant, strong-minded professional, a gifted organizer and statistician. Florence was without a doubt one of the most influential women in the 19th century.

Florence Nightingale is someone who we can all learn from. I am concerned that cultural amnesia may rob us as Canadians of her inspiring story. While her story is still taught in British and South African schools, it is not to be found in the BC public School Curriculum.  Is this not a good time to reconsider Florence’s remarkable ongoing influence?

Florence Nightingale was baptized in the Church of England as an infant in Florence, Italy, where she was born in 1820.  As a child, Florence was very close to her anti-slavery lobbyist father who, without a son, treated her as his friend and companion.  Her father, William Nightingale, a wealthy English landowner, took responsibility for her education and personally taught her Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, history, philosophy and mathematics.

As a teenager, Florence was converted to Jesus Christ, writing in her diary: ‘God spoke to me and called me to His service’.  But sixteen years were to pass before her life changed to one of service.  Looking back years later, Florence commented: “the ‘Cornerstone’ book which converted me in 1836 –alas! That I should so little have lived up to my conversion.”  In her ‘Spiritual Journey’ Journal, Florence wrote: ‘O God, the Father of an infinite Majesty, give me Thy Holy Spirit twenty times a day to convince me of sin, of righteousness, above all to give me love, a real individual love for everyone.’

Florence’s mother, Fanny Nightingale was a domineering woman primarily concerned with finding her daughter a good husband.  She was therefore upset by Florence’s decision to reject offer of marriage by several suitors, including the well-connected Lord Houghton.  At age of twenty-five, Florence told her parents she wanted to become a nurse. Her parents were totally opposed to the idea, as nursing was associated with alcoholism and prostitution.

In 1851, thirty-one year-old Florence spent three months nursing at the Deaconess Institution at Kaiserswerth, Germany.  Upon returning to her family in England, Florence said: ‘I was treated as if I had come from committing a crime’.  When in 1853 Florence became a Nursing Superintendent in London, her parents wailed, wept, and refused to eat.

In 1854, Florence Nightingale took 38 “handmaidens of the Lord.” (as she called them) to nurse wounded British soldiers in the Crimean War. This was the first time the government had allowed women to do this. Almost all modern nursing systems and techniques we know today can be traced back to her. According to some reports, Florence suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) for the rest of her life.

The Crimean War was, Florence wrote, ‘calamity unparalleled in the history of calamity’.  She became famous as ‘The Lady with the Lamp’.  The wounded along the four miles of beds loved to see her, because she so obviously cared what was happening, and fought for better conditions for them.  One soldier wrote home that the men kissed her shadow on the wall when she passed.

Conditions in this so-called hospital in Scutari, Turkey, were appalling.   No operating tables. No medical supplies. No furniture.  The lack of beds, for example, meant that the best the wounded soldiers could hope for was to be laid on the floor wrapped in a blanket. Rats ran amongst the dying. On occasion, even dead bodies were forgotten about and left to rot.  There had been no washing of linen – and every shirt was crawling with vermin. Florence ordered boilers – and boilers were installed.  Florence was able to demonstrate that for every soldier killed in battle in the Crimean War, seven died of infections and preventable disease. Better food, cleanliness and good sanitation could prevent disease and death.

 Florence was exhausted, the life drained out of her by her struggles in the Crimea. She was only thirty-six, but she felt her work must surely be over.  In fact she had nearly forty years of active working life ahead of her. Although bedridden and unable to walk, she still campaigned tirelessly to improve health standards, publishing over 200 books, reports and pamphlets.  Her book ‘Notes on Nursing’ popularly ranked as one of the two most important scientific books of the 19th century.  One of the keys to Florence Nightingale’s success in improving health conditions was that she took numerous notes on aspects of health care and organized this information in order to analyze it, draw conclusions, and make appropriate changes. In her notes, she used graphical displays of information similar to what are now known as pie charts. She was recognized for her skill in interpreting large amounts of data and standardizing information such as the classification of disease so that different hospitals could compare their findings. As a result, Florence was the first woman to be elected a fellow of the Statistical Society and given the British Order of Merit.

In September 1856 Florence Nightingale received an invitation to visit Queen Victoria. Upon meeting, Queen Victoria complimented Florence, saying: “You have no self-importance or humbug.  No wonder the soldiers love you so.”  Queen Victoria never lost her awe of Florence Nightingale. To her, Florence was the bravest, most independent woman in the British Empire.

For Florence Nightingale, Jesus Christ was “the most important person that ever lived.” She kept a picture of Christ, crowned with thorns, in her bedroom.  The call to relieve suffering was such, said Florence, that we “dishonour Christ when we do not do our best to relieve suffering, even in the meanest creature.  Kindness to sick man, woman and child came in with Christ.”

In her journal, Florence recorded these thoughts: “Personal union with Jesus Christ; without this we are nothing. Father, give me this personal union. Come in, Lord Jesus, come into my heart now. There is no room. Each day more and more of this new year, 1895, and may it be a better and a happier year than any before. So help me/us God!”

Let us give thanks for the life and work of Florence Nightingale, pioneer nurse and handmaid of the Lord who has brought health and healing for countless millions.

 

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-previously published in the North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 


10 Comments

Pain: Useless intrusion or gift of God?

By the Rev. Dr. Ed HirdDr Paul Brand

One of the most significant books that I have read  is Pain: the Gift Nobody Wants by Dr. Paul Brand & Philip Yancey.  Dr. Paul Brand was a world-famous leprosy surgeon who has spent most of his life caring for the forsaken lepers in India.  He performed countless medical miracles, enabling people with leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) to live healthy and productive lives.

 

Dr. Brand’s  book was endorsed by Dr. C. Everett Koop, a former Surgeon General of the United States, who bestowed on Dr. Brand the Surgeon General’s Medallion.  Dr. Koop said that when he wonders who he would like to have been if he had not been born C. Everett Koop, the person who comes to mind most frequently is Paul Brand.

Dr Paul Brand2One of Dr. Brand’s greatest breakthroughs was the discovery that people with leprosy do not have ‘bad flesh’ that just rots away by itself.  In fact, their flesh is just as healthy as yours or mine.  They are usually not even contagious.  What they lack is the ability to feel pain.  As the blood flow is cut off from key parts of their body, their nerve endings die.  With the death of their nerve endings comes the death of their ability to sense danger to their bodies.  Leprous people live a virtually pain-free existence.  Many of us would do anything to live a pain-free life.  Yet in fact, the absence of pain is the greatest enemy of the leper.  Again and again they wound and impale themselves.  Yet they don’t feel a thing.

Dr. Brand spoke movingly about little Tanya, a four-year-old patient with dark, flashing eyes, curly hair, and an impish smile.  She seemed fine as an infant.  Then when she was a year and a half, her mother came into her room.  She noticed her daughter finger-painting red pictures on the floor of her playpen.  Suddenly her mother realized that her daughter had bitten off the tip of her finger and was drawing with her own blood.  Because of her leprosy, Tanya felt no pain even when she damaged herself.  I wonder how many of us as parents have ever thanked God that our own children can feel pain?

We in the west live in a culture that has a Dr Paul Brand 3remarkable ability to shut down pain in our lives.  People in North America consume over thirty thousand tons of aspirin a year.  North Americans, who only represent 5 percent of the world’s population, consume over 50% of all manufactured drugs, one-third of which work on the central nervous system.  We are the most advanced society in the world in terms of suppressing pain.  Yet the more we try to shut down pain, the more pain strikes back.

 

When we refuse to listen to the pain in our bodies, we invariably begin to destroy ourselves.  Just think of the number of famous football, basketball, and hockey stars who have damaged themselves for life by going out on the field, still injured, with the help of painkiller injections.  If leprosy is the inability to feel pain, then alcohol and drug addiction, which deaden our pain, are forms of modern day leprosy.  The greatest damage that pain-dead alcoholics and drug addicts do is the damage they do to their spouses and children.  That is why I am so grateful for the gift of AA and related 12-Step groups.  I wonder how many of us as parents have thanked God for the ability to feel our family’s pain?

Dr Paul Brand 4As you are reading this article, you have probably blinked your eyes hundreds of times.  Have you ever wondered why we blink?  Dr. Brand discovered that leprous people go blind, because they don’t blink.  Blinking functions like our car’s windshield wipers, washing away the impurities.  It is pain that causes us to blink.

 

Try not blinking for the next 60 seconds, if you need proof of this.  Because leprous people feel no pain, they don’t blink.  The absence of pain actually makes them go blind.  Dr. Brand solved their blinking problem surgically by attaching the chewing muscle to their eyelid.  Every time they chew gum, their eyelid blinks.  As we lovingly look at the faces of our children,  how many of us as parents have ever thanked God for the ability to feel pain in our eyes?

One of the greatest mysteries that Dr. Brand faced was why leprous people kept losing their fingers and toes overnight.  He knew that they didn’t just shrivel up and fall off.  but no one could ever find what happened to the lost fingers and toes.  Finally Dr. Brand decided to have people stay awake all night watching the leprosy patients sleep.  To their surprise, they discovered that rats were coming in and nibbling off their fingers.  Because the patients felt no pain, they never woke up and brushed away the rats.

 

To save their extremities, leprosy patients are Leprosy_hand_affected_fourth_digitnow required to take cats with them, wherever they plan to sleep.  I encourage you as you are reading this article to look down at your 10 fingers.  How many of us as parents have ever thanked God for our hands that reach out to touch our children, and for the gift of pain that keeps them healthy?

 

Over 2,000 years ago, a Jewish peasant loved us so much that he allowed people to drive spikes into his hands.  I thank God that Jesus chose to bear our pain that he might give us the gift of life.

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

-author of the award-winning book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier/North Shore News

for better for worse-Click to check out our newest marriage book For Better For Worse: discovering the keys to a lasting relationship on Amazon. You can even read the first two chapters for free to see if the book speaks to you.

 

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #102-15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca