JUDY VALENTE: In the maternity ward at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital, chaplain Yusuf Hasan performs the akika birth ritual, welcoming newborn Mohammed Touri into the Islamic faith.
YUSUF HASAN (Lenox Hill Hospital Chaplain): David, how have you been?
VALENTE: But he spends much of his time with the young and very sick as
the pediatric chaplain at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York city.
From birth to death, chaplains are there for patients and their families of all
faiths at the most significant times of their lives. Seventeen-year-old David
Capalbo, a Christian, was just diagnosed with leukemia three weeks ago.
IMAM HASAN (to David): Can you talk to me a little bit about your feelings,
how you felt when you first heard your diagnosis, some of your feelings inside?
DAVID CAPALBO: I couldn't believe it, I thought I was going to wake up
from a dream. I was shocked.
IMAM HASAN: I think the most important thing for me is to be there for
them, just to be there and be prepared to walk with them whatever way I have to.
Do for them whatever I have to do religiously or spiritually.
David): It's not easy for you, I'm sure. We'll try to work with you to make it
easy for you. And you have a right to feel a little depressed at times, and the
right to feel sad, to be angry too, if you like to be angry sometimes.
What I've done to really help him is to make sure everyone gives him his space
and his time to process his feelings and then let him talk to me about his feelings
in a private setting.
(to David's mother): And mom, how are you doing?
MRS. CAPALBO: When they said he had leukemia I didn't expect to hear that
at all. My family and I have a strong faith and we believe that Jesus is going
to pull him through.
VALENTE: Chaplains try to gauge each family's particular needs, knowing
that the needs of the family may be different from those of the patient. And for
some what is most comforting is prayer.
Hospital chaplains receive a year of specialized training and have to be certified
by professional organizations. Though many are members of the clergy, their work
is ecumenical. They must be able to provide spiritual and religious support to
patients and their families of all faiths.
TRUSH (father of patient Daniel Trush): Our whole family was watching him
play basketball, he took a shot, he came running off the court holding his head
and started spasming, we later found out that he had five aneurysms and one had
VALENTE: Twelve-year-old Daniel Trush was rushed to Beth Israel Hospital
where Rabbi Mychal Springer was the chaplain on call. And though the Trushes are
devout Catholics, they felt an immediate connection with the rabbi.
MR. TRUSH: There was a feeling that someone understands what we are going
through, someone understands what we're feeling, and someone understands our deep
commitment to God and our faith that things will work out.
RABBI MYCHAL SPRINGER: They had a deep belief that they and I were about
the same thing and that's what made it work.
Daniel spent 30
days in a coma, endured four surgeries, and spent 341 days in the hospital. Mychal
Springer and the Trush family prayed constantly and Daniel eventually emerged
from his coma --even doctors called it a miracle. Four years later, Daniel is
an active teenager and is still grateful for those prayers.
DANIEL TRUSH: Without faith and without the big man upstairs, I don't think
I would be here right now.
VALENTE: But the most difficult part of a chaplain's job is when prayers
go unanswered and then they have to confront what is the meaning of suffering.
Why do terrible things happen to good people?
IMAM HASAN: As a clergy person and as a chaplain, there are some things
that we are not just able to explain ourselves.
SPRINGER: When people experience that their prayers are not answered, often
there's a lot of anger. And the most important thing that the chaplain can do
is to be respectful of the anger as being a faithful response. I reached out to
God, I expected God's help and I'm not going to receive God's help in the way
that I most desperately wanted. That anger is sacred because it speaks to the
intensity of the desire for God to be a source of healing and comfort and life.