From our archives to your heart

Maternity Ward
Tulsa, Oklahoma
St Johns Hospital
1948  6:20pm

Dr. Steven Craig was in hell. He was smoking a cigarette just outside the maternity ward.  He was looking for an escape, any escape to get out of where he was. For he was in a position that doctors loathe.  He had to decide who was going to live and who was going to die.

He stubbed out his cigarette and walked back into the ward.  Before him was Hannah Bell Doty.  He knew her well.  She was a farm girl from Oilton, Oklahoma.  She came to the big city, made it good in business.  He also knew that at 11 years ago back in Oilton, she had a fever.  Rheumatic fever.  It had lasted too long, damaged her heart, and she had been suffering from low blood pressure all these years.  She had a baby two years before, a baby girl who lasted two days.  She was buried in a shoe box over near Savanah, Oklahoma by the river.

And now once again it was time for birth. Her water had broke.  However, her blood pressure was way too low.  A cesarean was out of the question. And even if the baby came there was a serious question of what kind of baby it would be and even more important, would Hannah still be alive.   In the lobby with his cigarette, he had made a decision the only safe way he knew, with logic and reason.  He decided to save the mother.  Rather than risk the death of both.

Dr. Craig spoke to the nurses.  Explained to them what they would do.  The mother was unconscious.  He walked to her, spread her legs, opened the door of God, and proceeded to pick up a clamp.

He was definitely uncomfortable.  This was something he could hardly bear. And he was angered by one of the nurses who had just left.

Slowly, ever so slowly, he slipped the clamp through her vagina, felt a bump.  “Good,” he said, “the head is right there.”  He opened the clamp and felt it expand the wall, preparing to go over the baby’s head and he began to screw it tight.  WAM!

The door burst open.  Two nuns and a security guard with a gun in his holster walk into the room.  Sister Mary Regina said to Dr. Craig, “Listen here, this is a Catholic Hospital.  We do not do abortions here.  You may disengage and leave, Dr. Reese will take over.”

Dr. Craig was in shock for three reasons.  One, if this baby was going to be born it was going to have a severe head injury because of the clamp.  He said nothing, did exactly as the nun said, disengaged the clamp and pulled it out.  He felt relief.  The second was no longer being responsible for this patient.  The third was never released.  The fear that what he had done could have destroyed that baby’s brain.

Gently, and guiltily, but as elegantly as he could manage Dr. Craig said thank you to the nurses and walked out the door.  Sister Mary Regina followed him into the hallway and said, “We are not throwing you out of the hospital, we understand your position, but now you know ours.  Do we have an understanding?”

“Yes, thank you, Sister.”  Dr. Craig said.  The Sister had felt his guilt and released it from him.  It was an act of love, an act of Jesus. St. John’s Hospital was a place of miracles but wisely, no one talked about it.

Dr. Craig walked happily out of the maternity ward.  He passed Dr. Reese and smiled and gave him a wink.  Dr. Reese walked on, entered the maternity ward and said with his gritty voice, “Well, let’s see what we have here.”

Even in this direst mode, Dr. Reese’s presence was a jocular acceptance of love.  His very voice cleared the room.  Before even using his stethoscope he put his hand near the mother’s heart and listened.  The three nurses breathed a sigh of relief because they had been with Dr. Reese and secretly knew of his very real spiritual powers.

Dr. Reese’s hand lay on the chest of Hanna Bell Doety.  Flesh touching flesh, that alone was a sacrament.  He listened to the pulse of the heart, felt her emotions coming through, then winced because the blood pressure was so low.  He said a prayer and rubbed his hand softly over the top of her heart to say thank you.  Nobody knows what really happened for the next two hours. Hanna Bell was semi-conscious through it all.  Dr. Reese refused to talk about it.  The miracle happened at 9:35 pm in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I, Raphael F. Sharpe, was born.

What came out was grey, and barely looked like a baby.  The head was dented, he was too weak to cry, and barely breathing.  Dr. Reese handed the baby to a nurse and while she held him he reshaped the baby’s head, amazingly so.  He sighed, looked at the baby and thought, “I give him four days.”

Two days later, Hanna Bell Doety lay in a Catholic hospital room, beautifully filled with prayers and flowers.  She was told that she and her baby could leave.  Dr. Reese came in afterward as if on cue.  Right out of a Normal Rockwell painting, he hugged Hanna Bell looked into her eyes, and told her, “We can’t promise you anything.”  With gold spectacles filled with compassion, he said nothing more.

Hanna Bell knew intuitively what he was saying.  She smiled and looked back at him, shining out love.  She was golden.  They hugged once more and then she and her baby left the hospital.  Not much else was said for the next two weeks about what had happened.  Then two weeks later Hanna Bell came back to St. Johns for a check-up.

As she walked into Dr. Reese’s office the nurses saw the baby and went hysterical.  They saw in Hannabel’s arms a healthy, husky, young boy.  He gurgled and smiled and grabbed at the nurse’s fingers as they played with him.  They couldn’t believe it.  Ten minutes later Dr. Reese had heard it all.  He came in with his husky voice and like she was his own daughter he embraced her.

“What did you do?” he finally asked.  Hannah sat there almost mystically, her short, black hair cropped around her face.  She smiled back at them, her eyes sparkling, and said, “I gave him lots of love.”

Dr. Reese laughed.







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