FAIRFAX, Virginia, March 28, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – One of the country's largest free-standing pro-life OB/GYN clinics moved this month to a bright new facility where it provides a full range of life-affirming women's healthcare regardless of insurance or ability to pay.
On Saturday, Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge blessed the new offices of Tepeyac OB/GYN, formerly Tepeyac Family Center, and its charitable arm Divine Mercy Care. The massive new facility has 12 exam rooms, a large sonography space, administrative offices, and a sky-lit waiting room. It shares a building with other medical offices and is close to INOVA Fair Oaks Hospital, where its doctors deliver babies.
The light, airy atmosphere of Tepeyac's new offices adds to “the surroundings of real healing [and] real integration,” Dr. John Bruchalski told LifeSiteNews. Bruchalski committed abortions during his medical residency but had a change of heart after he says he heard the voice of the Blessed Virgin Mary imploring him to stop.
The new space is “a perfect complement to not only helping people find good options in behavior and in health and with their families” but also showing patients “that there’s light and that there’s joy and that there’s clarity,” said Bruchalski.
He said he'd laugh if back in medical school someone had told him he'd be running a giant pro-life medical center with a chapel next to the waiting room.
But God “picks the weakest instruments” to do His will, Bruchalski said.
“The emphasis of pro-life medicine … has always been bringing Jesus Christ back as the divine physician. That’s what we call restorative or restoration in medicine. It’s a Renaissance. It’s actually a renewal. And only Jesus Christ can do that,” said Bruchalski. “We wanna be instruments of mercy.”
“For us gynecologists, it’s about emphasizing the language of the body that hormones promote in the body, but also this beauty of the genius of being feminine,” said Bruchalski. “It’s this idea of respecting people and showing them what their potentials are. That they don’t have to settle for shame and anxiety and fear and being used – we don’t have to do that. We don’t have to do that as doctors, we don’t have to do that as patients, and we sure don’t have to do that as a healthcare system. That’s the future of medicine.”
Tepeyac's services include obstetrics and midwifery, gynocology, gynocological surgery, natural family planning, infertility treatments, adolescent health, and hormone management – all consistent with the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Tepeyac doesn't commit or refer for abortions. It also doesn't provide or refer for sterilization and artificial contraception. It only performs hysterectomies when medically necessary and avoids “hasty C-sections.”
Tepeyac accepts most insurance plans. It also treats patients without insurance and through Divine Mercy Care assists women facing unexpected or crisis pregnancies. One in three of the pregnant women Tepeyac sees can't fully afford prenatal care herself; Divine Mercy Care supports these patients.
“We have to be a light on a hill to those coming after us,” said Bruchalski. “They’re in a world where abortion is considered ‘excellent, necessary’ healthcare. And we have to fight that tooth and nail as we go forward.”
The direction of Tepeyac is “absolutely where the future of pro-life medicine needs to go,” Laura Ricketts, vice chairman of Guiding Star Project and the founder of FiLumena Birth, told LifeSiteNews. “Tepeyac is committed to treating the whole woman, not just symptoms of being a woman, not just one aspect of being a woman, but the whole person.”
Perinatal hospice program helps babies facing tough diagnosis
Ricketts, a birth and bereavement doula and midwife-in-training, helps women who are suffering the loss of a child.
Tepeyac has a perinatal hospice program that cares for mothers and their babies who face a poor prenatal diagnosis. When mothers receive news that their babies may not live very long out of the womb or may die before birth, Tepeyac gives “that mother excellent OB care” and the “baby all the help that it can get,” Dr. Marie Anderson told LifeSiteNews.
Tepeyac's loving approach recognizes to parents that babies are “a fruit of your love” and are “sent to you by God,” she said.
“We make sure that we have diagnosed the problem accurately,” Anderson explained, so that if the baby needs surgery or special care right after birth they're ready to provide it. “We coordinate the transition of care from here in the office to the hospital. So we have a whole set of people that we bring into the circle who are going to be the nurses, the administrators, the support people in the hospital so that there are no surprises. Patients always want to feel that the team that cares for them is well-coordinated, everyone is informed, everyone is on the same page of music. …We preferentially select people who have a heart for our mission.”
These medical professionals are present “at the birth of a miracle,” said Anderson. “To respect that is to acknowledge that it is a miracle.”
The perinatal hospice gives parents recordings of their baby's heartbeat in the womb and a ceramic heart with his or her footprint. Although the birth and subsequent death of these babies is a time of great sadness, it's also one of joy because a new human is welcomed into the world and into the family God intended her to be part of, Anderson said.
“When the whole world questions” why parents wouldn't abort a disabled baby, “we’re here to help them,” Anderson said.
“There are doctors who practice in such a fearful way that they would rather kill a baby than be sued for wrongful life because the baby isn’t perfect,” she said. “There are doctors who are sued for 'wrongful birth' and 'wrongful life.' And to me, 'wrongful life' is a contradiction in terms. It is probably the biggest travesty of all the contradictions in terms. I can’t imagine a worse one.”
“I have seen babies that die in infancy, in the delivery room, or in utero accomplish more in their short life than people who live 80 years on this planet,” said Anderson. She shared the story of a baby born with Trisomy 18 who lived for several days after birth.
“Inside of that time, the couple set up what amounts to a church in their hospital room,” she recalled. “And people from the hospital were going up to visit them, to share their joy. I went to the cafeteria and one of the cafeteria workers had gone up to pray because she had heard that the family was so amazing. She wanted to witness that faith.”
'Transformation of the heart' more important than anything else
Tepeyac managed to move to its new building despite three of its doctors facing serious health challenges over the past year. Bruchalski had a heart attack and serious hernia reconstructive surgery. Dr. Daniel Fisk had a heart attack in late 2015. Anderson had foot surgery. And Rita Stanislawski, a physician's assistant, welcomed her second daughter in 2016.
“We have to work with whatever [God] allows to be put in front of us today,” said Bruchalski, who shows no signs of slowing down or getting burned out. “We still wanna be a resource and a referral center for young students and other providers who have been burned out by the system and feel as if they’re dead and what they’ve done has not worked.”
In 2016, five medical students completed rotations at Tepeyac. Three more were just matched with the center for 2017 rotations.
No matter what happens, Bruchalski trusts that God will use him and Tepeyac to help the world.
“Many of us feel as if we’re in the desert” spiritually, he said. This is especially because “we’re in the middle of all this chaos … and confusion.”
But “the desert is only a pathway to the glory to come,” he said. “If you keep your face, if you keep your eyes and heart focused on the love and face of Jesus Christ, his soft eyes become your soft eyes and then you can translate that to the patients in front of you. What matters today more than anything is not always the political, it’s not always even the medical, but it’s actually that transformation of the heart that occurs when you give everything over to Him. And because we’re in the desert, it just reinforces the fact that we are not self-sufficient, we need Him and His mercy now more than ever, and we need to do whatever He puts in front of us today.”
Pro-life activists must “realize that we all need to play our little role, whatever that is in our own communities,” said Bruchalski. “And then help out those around us in the larger communities. Let the Lord do the hard stuff.”
God “had to shake me to my core in order to get my attention,” he continued. “And then he had to lead me off of little cliffs – my wife and I jumping and jumping. And as Mary keeps telling us, 'do whatever He tells you.' And when I doubt and fear she then says, 'Has my son ever let you down?' And the answer to that is never … I can do all things through Him who strengthens me – every day is like an adventure, an adventure in the Holy Spirit and in the Communion of Saints.”