Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Caring for the Whole Person

hydrotherapy room, courtesy Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict
submitted by Susan Sink

This year the St. Cloud Hospital is celebrating 125 years of hospital care in the region. This care was begun by the Sisters of the Order of Saint Benedict, who opened the first hospital back in February 1886. The Sisters always had bad timing with their building projects, it seems, because in April 1886, a serious tornado came through the area, leveling the town of Sauk Rapids. In fact, if it weren't for that tornado, Sauk Rapids would have probably developed as the central city of this area, not St. Cloud.

The Sisters' hospital remained standing and the staff heroically responded to care for the victims of the tornado. It was because of this disaster effort that the hospital became accepted by the public as a place for care (not just a place for the dying) and succeeded.

The Sisters built the current hospital building in 1928, and we all know what happened in 1929. The Great Depression seriously threatened the Sisters' ability to pay off the note to the bank, but through heroic efforts and years of sacrifice by all the Sisters, the debt was paid.

What I wanted to write about today was something that happened at the hospital in August of 1929. It was then that Sister Lioba Braun opened the Hydrotherapy Department at the St. Cloud Hospital. This department provided advanced treatments to soothe patients with nervous disorders and other ailments. The hospital had been equipped with solariums for "heliotherapy," landscapes for patients to go outdoors when possible and space for massage therapy as well as hydrotherapy.

Sister Lioba Braun had traveled to Bismarck, S.D., for training in massage, and traveled to a hospital in Michigan to observe their hydrotherapy department.

The hydrotherapy and massage department are just one example of how the Sisters, from very early on, cared for the whole person in their hospitals. This kind of care set the tone for future developments in hospital care at St. Cloud Hospital. In the late 1960s, as part of the first major renovation since the building was built in 1928, the hospital included extensive in-patient mental health facilities and alcohol and substance abuse treatment. In 1983, they opened the Heart Center. Continuing this mission of treating the whole person, Sister Ruth Stanley currently works as a holistic services specialist at the Heart Center.

One thing that makes health care in this area so special is its comprehensive commitment to treating the whole person and, at St. Cloud Hospital, the Benedictine tradition of treating all as though they were Christ.

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