When parents receive a diagnosis that their infant or young child is critically ill, it is devastating. At times like this, the spiritual care service at Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel, steps in to offer emotional support.
Having overcome the initial shock, parents of a child diagnosed with a life-threatening condition ask the same universal questions: why our child? What did we do wrong? Are we being punished? Rambam’s pediatric spiritual care service, headed by Inbal Liber, offers a unique service to pediatric patients and their parents facing this emotional crisis. Irrespective of religion, culture, or ethnicity, parents face the same dilemmas –– all are searching for answers.
The Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital at Rambam provides advanced medical services with a holistic approach to treatment in every area of pediatric healthcare. It is the only children's hospital dedicated exclusively to pediatric medicine in Northern Israel and serving all its diverse communities. The hospital’s spiritual care counselors have completed Rambam’s two-year training course and a 400-hour internship specializing in highly complex cases. Being a spiritual care counselor is a unique calling; emotional stability, compassion, and empathy are some character traits the counselor must possess.
At Rambam, the spiritual well-being of an individual is addressed from multiple angles. It is only one layer of support families receive – psychologists and social workers also play an essential role in the process. Each family approaches their suffering differently. “After performing an initial assessment, we use music, art, relaxation, guided imagery, prayer, and other techniques to help the families with their emotional healing. Religious texts are comforting and help parents deal with and find meaning in their crises. Providing emotional support to family members as they prepare to bid farewell to their child is an important part of our service,” Liber explains.
Liber works two days a week at Rambam’s Department of Neonatology and Neonatal Intensive Care and in the Pediatric Dialysis Unit in the Pediatric Nephrology Institute. She is a qualified lawyer and an experienced legal mediator. The skills she acquired in her 17-year legal career contribute to her ability to provide much-needed support to families facing this type of crisis. A couple she counseled was questioning their choice: "to get pregnant, the couple underwent artificial insemination, which included embryo selection, and they were sure that they were being punished for making this choice,” Liber shares.
At Rambam, spiritual counselors also accompany adults facing life-threatening conditions. However, a child with a severe congenital birth defect, a malignant or chronic disease, or one that has been involved in a serious accident, and all Rambam’s other pediatric patients, are treated with ‘kid gloves.'
Based on a Hebrew article that first appeared in Ha’Aretz online edition.