A Very Unusual Treatment

When Dr. Kathi J. Kemper asked her colleagues to pray for a patient, she got some surprising results.

BY: Anne Simpkinson

Kathi J. Kemper, M.D., M.P.H., directs the Center for Holistic Pediatric Education and Research at The Children's Hospital in Boston, is a member of the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and the author of "The Holistic Pediatrician." She spoke with Beliefnet Spirituality producer Anne Simpkinson.

You told a remarkable story at a recent conference on complementary and alternative medicine about physicians praying for a patient of yours. Would you tell it again?

I'd been helping to take care of a girl in the intensive care unit. She was 13 years old and had a malformation of a blood vessel in her brain. Part of the malformation ruptured and caused a major stroke. She was scheduled to have a procedure to prevent her from having another stroke. It's a very high-risk procedure and is prone to a lot of complications. I had been doing Reiki [a physical therapy that uses the body's energy for healing] with her every day, but the day of her procedure I was scheduled to give a talk at a medical meeting at the very same time. Her father asked me if I could do Reiki for her that morning, and I told him I was sorry but would be at the conference and asked him if he'd like me to pray for her instead. And he said yes.

I realized then that I was going to ask people I had never met to pray--something I'd never encountered before at a medical meeting--so I spent a pretty sleepless night. But at 8 o'clock the next morning, I asked that the doors at the back of the conference room be closed so people wouldn't be coming in and out, and I explained the situation to about 400 people who were at the conference and asked if we could have a moment of silent prayer, or of sending good will or good wishes to this girl. And we did that.

I was going to ask people I had never met to pray--something I'd never encountered before at a medical meeting.

Later in the talk, I was discussing prayer as a therapeutic option and asked how many people had ever been asked to pray at a medical meeting before. About three out of 400 people raised their hands. Then I asked how many would be willing to do it again and about 85% raised their hands. That was a very interesting response from physicians who were at an evidence-based medicine conference.

And what happened?

The girl did very well. I came back to the hospital to see her afterward, and her father told me he'd talked to the neuro-radiologist who said it had gone more smoothly than other times they had done this, that the group in the procedure room was in tremendous harmony, and that things flowed very smoothly and there was not a single complication.

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