Trauma chaplains offer different kind of healing

Trauma chaplains offer different kind of healing

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - First responders and hospitals in the area are on high alert for the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

When someone is a victim of a violent crime in the Savannah area, chances are they are taken to Memorial Health’s level 1 trauma center.

Memorial Health takes a holistic approach when it comes to treating victims of violent crime. That includes physical treatment as well as emotional and spiritual. Reverend Ken McKenzie has volunteered his time as a chaplain at Memorial for about four-and-a-half years, tending to the needs of victims and their families in the trauma unit. In that time, he’s seen the effects violent crime can have, regardless of how the victim got to the hospital.

“Sometimes we run into situations where it’s not a surprise. You know, somebody has been hanging out with the wrong crowd for a long time, and sometimes, as I said, it’s completely a surprise and families are just shaken to the absolute core,” Rev. McKenzie said. “That’s where the chaplains come in.”

McKenzie says beyond the physical wounds are sometimes much deeper psychological ones that can take a toll if left untreated.

“A victim of violent crime has suffered, essentially, an insult to their humanity; a violation of their self-hood," he said.

The latest numbers from Savannah Police show an increase in crimes like aggravated assaults and homicides compared to this time last year, with some of those victims coming through the doors at Memorial’s trauma center.

“What the chaplain does is allow the patient to tell their story. ‘Who am I? What has happened to me? What is the meaning of this?’ So, the chaplain is there to help interpret and put a story together for the person who’s been traumatized; who’s story has been disrupted," said Dr. Brian Childs, Director, Pastoral Care and Training, MUMC.

Rev. McKenzie will actually be leaving at the end of July. We asked him after his time in Savannah where he thinks we are as a city when it comes to addressing violent crime and all of its impacts on residents. He believes Savannah has a very good, responsive first responder system that is aware of the problems facing the community, and while every need might not be met...

“I think Savannah has the spirit to try, and I think this hospital has the spirit to reach out in ways that are not always noticeable or measurable or even achievable, but this hospital has a heart.”

A heart, and a team of chaplains with a heart for the community that they will continue to support, even in the worst of times.

Copyright 2019 WTOC. All rights reserved.