Tony Rossi, Director of Communications                                        

July 17, 2022

Doctor Sees Jesus in His Patients 

Dr. Wes Ely has developed practices for Intensive Care Units that are greatly improving the quality of

patients’ lives once they recover, but he approaches his career with a spiritual mindset, too. During a

“Christopher Closeup” interview about his Christopher Award-winning book “Every Deep-Drawn Breath,

” he explained, “I was in India, in Kolkata, at Mother Theresa’s Home for the Destitute and Dying, and

one of the things that she always said when they asked her, ‘How do you pick up these people? They’re covered in vomit and maggots and flies?’ And she said, ‘I just look in their eyes, and I say to myself, ‘This is Jesus Christ.’…For a non-Christian, the same thing can happen. You can look in the person’s eyes—whether you’re Muslim, Hindu, atheist, agnostic—and say…‘I am here to serve this entire person.’…I take a spiritual history of my patients and put them in charge…and I ask, ‘Do you have any spiritual values that you want me to know?’” 

There was one patient for whom Dr. Ely’s Catholic faith played a role. His name was Gian, and he was a doctor who had contracted COVID before vaccinations were available, so he was struggling to stay alive. During one visit, Dr. Ely asked Gian, “What matters to you?” Gian responded, “The Eucharist.”  

Since Dr. Ely is a Eucharistic Minister, he was able to bring Gian Holy Communion the next day. He actually had to calm Gian down because he got so excited at the prospect of receiving it that his oxygen saturation declined. But once he stabilized, Dr. Ely read from Scripture, offered prayers, and gave Gian the Eucharist. Gian began crying afterwards, saying, “This is the most important thing I could ever want.” 

Dr. Ely said, “As physicians, Gian and I incorporate science into faith, acknowledging that when we ingest the Eucharist, it enters the workings of the cells of our entire body. My faith affirms that consuming the Eucharist helps me become a better servant of God and others, and I readily admit that I need all the help I can get. I believe that how we handle ourselves on earth will echo into eternity, and the Eucharist is both our shield and protection during life and our Viaticum, food for the journey, in dying. For Gian, the knowledge that this might be the last time he received the Eucharist – and it was – transformed the moment for him, transforming him beyond the sterile walls of the ICU, to a place where he felt safe, loved, and in an eternal relationship with God. It was a very humbling experience for me to do that, [one] I never take for granted.” 

In closing, Dr. Ely reflected on the ways he lights a metaphorical candle when he endures times of darkness. He concluded, “There’s been a lot of heartache in my family and…with my patients, when I hope that one of them will survive and they don’t. When I hit those moments of darkness, I try to remind myself that my job is to take what comes and find the beauty and the love alongside that sadness and heartache…I have a motto that I keep in the forefront of my mind: V = v. I got this from Maximilian Kolbe. He used to teach the seminarians that the capital V, Voluntas, God’s will, must become my little v, voluntas. In other words, my will is subordinate to the will of God in my life…That’s the way I go forward.” 

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