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CHEO’S spir­i­tual ad­viser of­fers com­fort through some of life’s most chal­leng­ing times

When a child is crit­i­cally ill or in­jured, Ot­tawa par­ents know that the doc­tors and nurses at the Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal of East­ern On­tario will be there to help.

But there is an­other side to CHEO that of­ten goes un­rec­og­nized. It’s one that helps to hu­man­ize the hos­pi­tal in the most pro­found of ways: the spir­i­tual care it of­fers to chil­dren and fam­i­lies fac­ing life’s most dif­fi­cult mo­ments.

This is where Ger­ardo Quin­ta­nar, CHEO’S spir­i­tual ad­viser, comes in to the pic­ture. “I pro­vide sup­port to fam­i­lies and kids who are con­fronted with crit­i­cal ill­ness or trauma,” he ex­plains. “What I of­fer is a spir­i­tual as­sess­ment, not of them, but of what they are liv­ing through.”

Ger­ardo ad­mits that his pro­fes­sion of choice sees him deal­ing daily with peo­ple, of­ten very young chil­dren, who are grap­pling with painful ex­pe­ri­ences. But he chooses to look at it an­other way.

“I am a wit­ness to the im­mense ca­pac­ity of hu­man be­ings to sur­vive in ter­ri­ble cir­cum­stances,” he says. “My ob­jec­tive is to help each fam­ily live with their tragedy or se­ri­ous ill­ness, with a sense that they are not alone, to give them the op­por­tu­nity to have a hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence and not a bru­tal, an­i­mal ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Ger­ardo is par­tic­u­larly com­mit­ted to help­ing fam­i­lies fo­cus on the love they have for their sick or dy­ing child, be­cause it is an emo­tion that helps ev­ery­one in­volved in the child’s care, as well as the child. “We can­not have two feel­ings at once,” he notes. “If we have anger and de­spair, we can’t show love.”

He also ac­tively pro­motes an environment which en­hances the spir­i­tual well-be­ing of the staff pro­vid­ing care to the trau­ma­tized, the ill and the in­jured. “We all jour­ney to­gether in the suf­fer­ing, and the staff needs a way to recharge too, so that we can of­fer the best of our­selves to the fam­ily.”

Over­all, Ger­ardo is con­vinced that while CHEO is a place where fam­i­lies and staff face some of life’s great­est chal­lenges, it is also a place of deep love and com­pas­sion.

Although Ger­ardo can’t fix the med­i­cal is­sues he sees ev­ery day, he works tire­lessly to help mend souls in dis­tress through his com­pas­sion and em­pa­thy.

“Ev­ery morn­ing when I ar­rive at CHEO, I know that my work for the day is to help hu­man­ize the ex­pe­ri­ence of pain and suf­fer­ing that fam­i­lies are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing,” he ex­plains. “I can help to bring some light into the dark­ness; I can walk with them on the path to find­ing mean­ing in the chaos.”

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