The Touch That Heals

"Adventuresome" is probably too mild a word to describe Gretchen and Tom Carbaugh but it will have to suffice. In 2002, after selling their successful business, they commissioned a 53’ Oyster Marine sailboat, took to the high seas and spent the next 10 years circumnavigating the globe. They lived the life that most only dream about.

Fast forward to October 2014 when Gretchen is in the intensive care unit at UM St. Joseph Medical Center slowly recovering from an extremely serious and painful back surgery. The pain was excruciating and relentless. But relief arrived from a combination of pain medications and from certified integrative healing therapist, Heather Keller, RN. Tom was amazed at what he witnessed. “As Heather applied her hands over Gretchen, I actually saw her sink back into the pillows, ease her breathing and relax. I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” he says. During subsequent treatments at the medical center, Gretchen experienced the same extraordinary results. “The therapists reduced my pain to such a degree that I was able to drift off to sleep,” she says today with gratitude. Everyone at St. Joe’s was wonderful and to have these gifted therapists simply ‘be present,’ to me, acknowledge my pain, and work to alleviate it was an incredible experience.”

Adds Keller, “In a clinical environment, people can be skeptical about complementary therapies but the bottom line is they have been around for thousands of years and they work. Helping Gretchen go from a place of extreme agitation to peace and being in the moment with her was a gift to both of us.”

During their decade long sailing journey, a moment occurred near the Marquesas Islands that the couple will never forget. As dawn broke on Tom’s birthday, a whale popped up beside their boat, made a ‘shushing’ noise to ‘wish him Happy Birthday’ and disappeared. It was an almost surreal moment of beauty, peace and joy. Concludes Tom, “It might seem strange to compare that morning to the relief and calm Gretchen experienced from her integrative therapy sessions. I can’t explain either one. But, they happened and they were profound.”

In 2014 the medical center’s Healing Touch program was fortunate to receive a grant from the Foundation for Spirituality in Medicine to advance the work being done in integrative medicine in a hospital setting.

To make a gift to support the Healing Touch program, please fill out our donation form.

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