Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 22, 2002
You pray, then do the best you can
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
I am a fan of old movies. I really enjoy seeing familiar favourites from Hollywood's Golden Age.
Recently, I was reminded of a wonderful film biography of Sister Elizabeth Kenny starring Rosalind Russell that prompted a story about the famous nurse in the first edition of our Three Minutes a Day book series.
The story recounts one important event in the Australian nurse's life.
When Sister Kenny (1946) was in production, the nurse was called in as a consultant.
One day, she described to Rosalind Russell how she discovered her treatment for polio. Kenny said that she had been summoned to a seven-year-old girl who lived far out in the lonely bush country.
The child was in extreme pain, had a high fever, and her leg and foot muscles were contracted.
Kenny had never seen this particular combination of symptoms before.
She quickly sent a rider to the nearest telegraph station 32 km. away with an urgent message for a doctor, asking his advice.
Meanwhile, she spent the night comforting the child as best she could.
At dawn the long awaited reply arrived: "The symptoms you describe indicate infantile paralysis. There is no known cure.
"Do the best you can."
Kenny was stunned. The case was virtually hopeless.
At this point Rosalind Russell, who was preparing to portray Sister Kenny on the screen, interrupted: "What did you do? What was the first thing you thought of? Did you tear up a blanket for the hot packs?"
"No," Kenny replied. "The first thing I did was kneel down and say a prayer."
I love this story because it demonstrates the most sensible approach to problems I think any one of us could have.
Sister Kenny (who, by the way, was not a nun, but received that title or rank when she served as a nurse during the First World War) asked for help - first from a doctor who she assumed would have the answer to guide her.
When it became clear that he not only didn't have a remedy, but that one did not exist, she turned to God.
She trusted God to help her help another.
What she couldn't know was that she would invent a therapy that would help people around the world at a time when no cure existed for a devastating and dreaded disease.
She decided to simply treat the symptoms in what seemed to be a simple, logical way using hot, moist applications in conjunction with passive exercise.
Living now in an age when the Salk and Sabine vaccines prevent the spread of polio, it's hard to understand the fear of epidemics that sent shockwaves of fear through many communities.
But what I find most intriguing about Kenny's work was that it was an effort to deal with a difficult situation in a straightforward way.
When most of us confront problems we are rarely able to just make them just go away.
We cannot cure the pain of day-to-day living nor can we always prevent hurtful and harmful situations from arising.
What we can do is deal with life's problems using the reason and the abilities God has given us.
The doctor who responded to Kenny got it right: "Do the best you can."
Just don't forget to start with a prayer.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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