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Health Matters Columnist Beth Sextion: On believing and healing

Healthy people often credit their religious beliefs for their hardiness. But what about those whose health takes a downward turn?
Does spirituality mend as well as protect? If, like the song says, you’re “looking for a reason to believe” that you can overcome a serious health setback, consider:
A 1988 study of 151 older coronary bypass surgery patients, taken a year after their operations, found significant reductions in depression and distress among those who turned to prayer for hope and support.
In general, people who attend worship services at least once a week live eight years longer than those who don’t, according to the ongoing National Health Interview Survey. The study also found that the nonspiritual group had an 87 percent higher risk of dying from all causes during a nine-year follow-up.
Researchers at Dartmouth Medical Center in New Hampshire studied elderly patients after cardiac surgery and found that those who had depended on faith to help them cope had a mortality rate one-third lower than other patients.
In another study of 442 patients, those who said they were highly or moderately spiritual reported less pain and better overall health than their counterparts who reported low levels of spirituality.
A meta-analysis by Beth Israel Hospital in New York of 131 studies on prayer concluded that at least 56 studies showed prayer having significant positive health effects. Benefits included reduced stress, depression and high blood pressure, and fewer complications from illness.
The possible health benefits of spirituality are undergoing intense study. While awaiting more findings, doctors and counselors are recommending soul-searching, staying close to loved ones and being positive in times of crisis. Spiritual values such as love, trust and optimism could provide the healing that patients really need to fully recover.
Healing is a great truth at CMC-Lincoln. As the new chaplain at CMC-Lincoln, I am available to aid in the healing process through adding support to patients, families, and staff throughout the hospital, offering both emotional and spiritual care.
As a chaplain, I strive to meet people where they are, aid in the process of healing through human conversation, offer guidance, be a calming presence, and allow people to feel they are not alone in the journey.
Hospitalization often brings many unknowns, anxieties, and mixed emotions.  My role is to walk with people as they face the unknown, support, care, and make the burdens seem a bit lighter.
I look forward to the many opportunities of serving the community and serving the patients’, families, and staff in hopes of making their hospital experience easier by knowing they are supported and heard.
My plan is to be another piece of the puzzle by offering exemplary care.
I am excited CMC-Lincoln has embraced pastoral care services and I will strive to add to the foundation of care, commitment, integrity, and teamwork the vision of this hospital describes and already exemplifies.
Pastoral care is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week at CMC-Lincoln. If you need pastoral support while at CMC-Lincoln, please contact one of our staff members.
Beth Sexon is a hospital chaplain for Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln.

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