Her head had been in near constant pain for over 3 weeks. She had endured migraines for years but they had been rare and relatively brief. The pain was not making it difficult to sleep and function, work was out of the question.
This was her 4th visit in the office in a 2 week period. I had prescribed pain medications (which made her vomit), medicines to abort migraines (which had minimal benefit that did not endure) and had even stayed late one day to administer a steroid shot (which was a long shot at best). When I walked in the room the tears in her eyes and the strain on her face told the story. She was emotionally done, the end of the rope had been reached. She wanted help.
Unfortunately I did not have much to offer. All of the options for immediate relief had been exhausted. The next step would be to start daily medications to prevent headache, but these medications can take several weeks to be effective. I ordered a CT scan of her brain, which although medically needless was emotionally necessary to calm her fears and wrote the prescription for the daily medications.
Out of options, as I was bringing the visit to a close I asked, “Are you religious at all? Do you practice any faith?”
“Not really,” she said, “I went to Catholic school though. Why do you ask?”
“Nothing else has worked, so I was going to offer to say a prayer for you,” I replied.
“I’m not religious,” she said, “but I would welcome you saying a prayer right now. I will take whatever help I can get.”
I walked across the room and put one arm around her shoulders and said a simple prayer, “Dear God, Amber is hurting right now. She is frustrated and exhausted. Give her hope, give her peace, and giver her relief from pain. Amen.”
I had been taught In medical school I had been taught to never inject faith into an office visit and to never allow my faith to intrude into my care. Her acceptance of the hug and the prayer proved my former teachers wrong. Faith, expressed as love and concern for a person in need, always has a place.