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Nurse and Dad

Buffalo ER nurse has nine children and many blog stories

As an emergency nurse manager in a Catholic hospital, David P. Marciniak gets to apply the principles of the faith to the healing profession. For the past 18 years, he has worked at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo, New York. For over a decade, he has been director of Our Lady of Good Remedy Health Services at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, a Catholic mission, relief agency and shelter in the city’s poorest neighborhood.

Marciniak works at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo.

Marciniak, 43, and his wife, Michelle, have been married for 22 years and have nine children: Emily (21), Elizabeth (18), Tyler (17), Jacob (15), Mary (13), John Paul (12), Joseph (10), Amelia (7) and Teresa (5).

An active blogger, he answered some e-mail questions for Fathers for Good.

Fathers for Good: As an ER nurse, you must have some stories to tell.  What are some memorable incidents that called forth the best in you?

Marciniak: Emergency care is fraught with opportunity to rise above oneself and truly make an impact in the lives of others. Everyone who seeks emergency care is in some kind of crisis with varying levels of ability to handle it. An ER nurse has to accommodate the entire spectrum of emotions and coping mechanisms, including their own. We are not immune to the emotionally charged atmosphere we serve in.

The gang's all here. Marciniak and his wife bring up nine children.

The moments I value most are those in which I was able to bring comfort to patients and their families. I recall performing an emergency baptism on a baby gasping its last breaths, bringing some level of peace to his mother. There are times I am called to hold a spouse who has lost a partner and is grieving, or calm the anxieties of a man suffering a heart attack while a confusing swirl of activity pulsates around him. It is never just about procedures or treatments – it is about human beings. I take that seriously.

FFG: Talk about Catholics in health care – have you met any conscience challenges?

Marciniak: I am blessed to work in a great hospital that honors and encourages my faith and my desire to practice as a Catholic nurse. Others, I know, are not so blessed, nor should we in Catholic health care institutions take our freedom of conscience for granted. As government regulators seek ways to make inroads to force procedures and practices contrary to Catholic moral teaching, it is our duty to oppose any and all such measures. Additionally, I believe no matter where one works, access to quality health care is a huge issue, and Catholic nurses should take leadership roles in efforts to give priority and preference to the poor and uninsured. 

FFG: What can the Catholic ethical principles add to health care, and how can they serve your healing ministry?

Marciniak: Catholic health care is unique. It is holistic, recognizing the impact of the spiritual life on an individual’s health and their ability to heal. It recognizes that there is a human element to medicine that must be considered and integrated into patient care, one that requires compassion, reverence and dignity. One of my heroes is St. Damian of Molokai. When he left for the leper colony from his homeland, his superiors, out of concern for his health, begged him not to touch the lepers. Upon arrival he recognized the need for love and attention there. He not only touched them, he embraced them. For me, this has been a guide throughout my practice. I need to be present as a nurse and a compassionate human being. Christ has no body now but mine, to borrow a phrase from St. Teresa of Avila. This is, in my opinion, the most valuable and distinct difference that Catholic health care can provide. 

FFG:  How do you handle nine children?

Marciniak: They are my joy! Those with large families understand many of the challenges of parenting in such circumstances, but the challenges are not as insurmountable as someone looking in might think. Each of my children is unique, requiring different kinds of support, love and encouragement. Some are more independent, others not so much. The important thing is we meet them where their needs are, and try in some way to let them know how much we love them.

Discipline is, in my opinion, far easier in a large family – there absolutely needs to be some sort of order! Education is a priority in our home. We home-schooled for many years; we currently have two in college, two in an all-boys Catholic high school, and the rest in our Mission school, where my wife is now a teacher. 

Our home is loud, crowded, and not always spit-spot clean, but it is full of love, and no one is ever lonely. We have many, many friends and visitors who find comfort and family here, and we love the opportunity to be welcoming.

FFG: You say on your blog that your wife is a saint.

Marciniak: Michelle is my anchor. She is a deeply spiritual person, but also very emotional and compassionate. She is considerate to all our needs and shows her love in little sacrifices and gifts of time and attention every day. She believes her role as my wife is to get me to heaven – and she takes that seriously.

She is an incredible mother, and the children are devoted to her, and she still has enough love to “mother” the poor and indigent children and adults at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy where she serves so faithfully. On Sunday mornings, the children of our parish, many very poor and from broken homes, come one by one to get a hug from “Miss Michelle,” and their mothers seek her love and guidance every day. She inspires me, and I know God is pleased with her.

David Marciniak blogs at: dmarciniak.blogspot.com