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Survivor praying her appreciation for caregivers forward

Judy Reusser is a survivor many times over, most recently of cervical cancer, for which she successfully underwent radiation and chemotherapy three years ago.

But also as a family survivor of suicide after her husband, Brian, took his own life 18 years ago, and of childhood sexual abuse by her pastors.

Last week, reflecting on the COVID-19 crisis, "It just hit me," says Judy, who now works as a certified addiction counselor: As a survivor and "thriver" of her own decades-long journey to physical, mental and spiritual wellness, "I gotta do my part."

So she began walking the circumferences of each of the hospitals that had played a part in her story and praying for the caregivers within. At each, she left behind one of the clay tokens she had received from friends and family during her cancer treatment.

Judy went first to Wesley Medical Center, where Brian "like Lazarus" had awakened from the dead after being airlifted there from Eureka, Kansas, after his first suicide attempt in 1992.

When she finished her prayer walk, she placed a token that said "Miracles happen," along with an angel by a bush near the hospital's north entrance.

Her next stop was Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph, where Brian was treated for depression following his second suicide attempt in 2001. There, she once again offered prayers, and then left a token that said "I am courage" near the Ascension symbol near the front entrance.

Finally, she took a walk around Ascension Via Christi St. Francis, where Brian had been taken after his second attempt and where her oncologist's practice is located. There, she prayed again and then, near the statue in the round of Jesus with the children, left a token that said "I rise you up."

She's continuing to encircle the hospital in prayer, now with a group of friends walking at least 10 feet apart.

For Judy, it's helping to bring closure and complete the journey that began with Brian's miraculous recovery 28 years ago, only to later leave her to raise two teenage children alone.

And the feeling she derives from her prayer walks?

"Empowered," she says, noting that for years she associated the hospitals with her husband's life-changing, emotionally scarring suicide. "Today, these hospitals are once again places of healing for me."

Places that bring to mind the births of her now grown daughter at St. Francis and her son and grandson at St. Joseph. Places where families pray for miraculous recoveries like the one Brian experienced when, against all odds, he survived. And places where caregivers and their families need everyone's prayers as they prepare for an anticipated surge of COVID-19 patients.

"They've come full circle for me," says Judy. "It's because of the miracle I witnessed that I am now praying for them and all the other caregivers, including the ones in my own family."

About Roz Hutchinson

Roz Hutchinson is a Wichita wife, mother and chief spoiler of six grandkids and three Chihuahuas, a die-hard women's basketball fan, and director of Communications and Public Relations for Ascension Via Christi.