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Signs of Hope: Transplanted blessings

Conquest - Fall 2012

Chaplains bring a spiritual presence to stem cell transplants

By Gail B. Goodwin

The room is quiet, but the sound of hope still rings loud and clear as a young cancer patient prepares for his stem cell transplant.

The stem cells, donated by the patient’s brother, are the center of attention. For this young man, the infusion is another chance at life.

It is his second transplant, so for everyone in the room, tension is mixed with faith and optimism.

Prayers are offered

Chaplains from the Department of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Education provide stem cell blessings at the request of any MD Anderson patient. Today, Richard Maddox has been asked to pray with this patient, his family and his medical team and bless the stem cells being transplanted.

Chaplain Richard Maddox

Maddox, the chaplain assigned to the 
MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, says that the blessing prior to the infusion can be a very emotional moment.

Everyone in the room gathers and places their hands on the bag of cells as Maddox prays. This moment is the point of passage from sickness into a place of tremendous hope.

“Gracious God, we are so grateful for this very sacred moment when we humble ourselves before you with these cells. May they go straight forward into his marrow, Lord, and begin to produce wholesome, healthy cells so that he may recover quickly.”

Contemplating the future with new hope

The cells themselves come from bone marrow and are immature cells that develop into various types of mature blood cells. A stem cell transplant replaces defective or damaged cells in patients whose normal blood cells have been crowded out by cancerous cells.

The stem cell blessing is a pivotal point in a patient’s treatment. A patient must be in remission to receive the transplant and that requires physical, psychological, emotional and often spiritual work.

Ten years ago, this same patient was just a boy facing his first transplant. Now he is a young adult and, with the relapse of his leukemia, faces challenges in establishing his career, his relationship with his fiancé and how he will manage his cancer.

The powerful moment of his stem cell blessing gives him hope for his future.

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