DANVILLE — When Sister Paula Marie Beiter first met Pastor Dave Hess, he was a leukemia patient with only a slim chance at survival.
That was 1998, when Beiter, sister of Danville department store owner Tom Beiter, was working at Camp Hill’s Holy Spirit Hospital. Today, Hess is free of cancer and just last week gave a speech about his experience at Danville’s Holy Family Convent, the current home of Beiter.
About 15 sisters were in attendance to hear Pastor Hess’ speech on his cancer diagnosis, and how the experience brought him closer to God and those around him.
“I want to thank you for your lives of devotion to (God),” he told the gathered sisters on his Aug. 29 visit.
“I cherish every day,” he said. “I find I love people more than I did before.”
Hess, who serves as the pastor of Camp Hill’s Christ Community Church, turned his story into a book, “Hope Beyond Reason,” published in 2008.
Over the six months Hess was at the hospital, Beiter would regularly stop by his and other rooms with a cart full of books for patients to read. The two struck up a friendship during this time. “We’ve been in touch ever since,” said Hess.
“He had prayers he prayed from the heart … It inspired me, I loved to let him pray for me,” said Beiter, of Hess’ hospital stay. “He was truly a prayer, and I’ve never forgotten him.”
Hess visited the convent after being invited by Beiter. “I said I’d love to see her again,” Hess remarked.
While being treated at the hospital for his cancer, Hess also developed complications with his appendix. Unfortunately, it was medically impossible to operate on him due to his body being weakened by rounds of chemotherapy.
His body would need six and a half weeks to be well enough to be operated upon. Doctors told him and his family that most adults did not live more than a few days with a burst appendix.
Miraculously, Hess lived and when doctors were ready to operate on him they expected to find his organs charred by the chemicals released from his appendix. Instead, they found that a layer of scar tissue had formed around his appendix, keeping the poison sealed off from the rest of his body.
Hess plans to publish a second book, “Hope Beyond Disappointment,” later this year. The inspiration for it came from talking with families who had loved ones with illnesses similar to Hess’ but who did not recover from them, he said.
Geisinger Health System is currently in negotiations to purchase the Holy Family Convent property from the Society of the Sisters of Christian Charity, the convent’s mother organization.
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