Praying for a Miracle: Family Experience with Religion and Spirituality in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Sofia Pauca, UG '21 (2179410)
I interviewed thirteen families of children who had previously been hospitalized in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, all of whom were Christian, as well as several physicians, nurses, and chaplains in the PICU (approved by IRB). Though my questions were broadly focused on experiences with religion and spirituality, what emerged in the conversations was an overwhelming discussion of the concepts of God's will and miracles. Families told me about their struggles with questioning what they saw as God's plan, and times when their prayers for a miracle in the PICU were taken by medical professionals as signifying that they did not understand the gravity of the situation. Physicians, nurses, and chaplains talked about the difficulty of these situations. Using the psychological anthropologist Tania Luhrmann's framework, I argued that instead of viewing these families' religious perspectives as beliefs that they can simply pick up or put down whenever they choose, we should view them as relationships with the divine that they have cultivated over years of intense practice and are intimately connected with how they experience their child's illness. When we do this, it becomes easier to see that a family praying for a miracle or asserting that God's plan will happen does not mean that the family does not understand the situation. Families do indeed comprehend the severity of the illness, for it is the very reason why they are praying - they are choosing to take action, in the face of despair, to assert that their hope is real.