Corona Virus: Pastors in front of epidemic


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Courtesy Mount Sinai Health System

From contacting Vistatime with anxious families to helping doctors and nurses cope with the stress they are experiencing, clerics working in hospitals have found themselves on the front lines of the Corona epidemic.

Rocky Walker came close to death while working as a chaplain in a hospital in the Corona Virus pandemic rather than facing death during his service in the 1991 Gulf War.

“It was scary and very dangerous,” Walker said. “Working in intensive care units and seeing all that suffering and seeing families being devastated by this thing: I haven’t seen it in combat, I saw it here closely.”

In the midst of the battle the United States is waging against the Corona epidemic, clerics and spiritual care professionals have been pushed to the front lines in new ways. These have played a crucial role in comforting the patients who were forced by the epidemic to face death in isolation from their families and loved ones.

Walker’s daily tasks changed from a pastor attached to the Cardiology Department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York when the epidemic invaded the city in April. / April.

The ex-soldier found himself in front of waves of new patients and strangers who knew nothing about them but rather were unable to communicate with those around them.

At the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston, a different challenge awaited Haley Desedo.

The idea of ​​volunteering for the unit to care for chronic disease patients and the elderly from Covid 19 cases was Decido’s decision.

“I didn’t think it would need me,” she says. “They need doctors and ventilators, but the welcome I received stunned me.”

Desido has experience dealing with the dying, but she was not prepared for a different challenge in which she would wear special vests to prevent her exposure to dangerous substances.

“She suddenly turns from a person whose presence brings peace and comfort to a scary person. I learned to move my eyebrows and look my eyes to look as if I was smiling.”

Walker also felt paralyzed when the muzzle covered his “most effective weapon”.

Of course, the biggest challenge was losing direct contact with patients, but also with families. “It was very difficult to develop phone relationships with people we have never met,” he says.

Mount Sinai Hospital has started recruiting pastors and volunteers to handle the delicate task of dealing with relatives of patients over the phone.

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Courtesy Hali Diecidue

Desido works with an organization that provides workers with the expertise to find innovative and improvised ways to accompany people facing their most difficult time.

That organization was founded in 2018 to explore changes in religious life in the United States, especially the growing number of people who do not belong to a particular religion, but who need spiritual care.

“The organization has been able to quickly deal with the requirements of Covid 19, and has responded to the urgent need to provide spiritual aid over the phone to console those affected by the epidemic, through a network of volunteers that includes about three thousand people in the United States and abroad,” said Wendy Cage, the organization’s founder.

She says the epidemic has shed light on spiritual care workers, but “these headlines are about clerics running to death, they weren’t actually running: they were there all the time. People … suddenly saw that they needed their help.”

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At the time of the epidemic, there was an urgent need to extend a helping hand to those who know that they are on the verge of death, their relatives and loved ones, who are difficult to part with and bid farewell to their loved ones.

Walker worked with the nursing staff, whose members could enter the patient rooms to deliver messages from family members. Sometimes he would just stand outside the patient rooms door to allow their relatives to check on them or say goodbye through FaceTime.

As for Desido, the task of standing on the doorstep of the sick rooms was a painful and arduous task.

“You have to wear two masks and shouting, while patients feel intimidated. So I found myself getting closer and closer. After that I was not supposed to touch the patients, but to be raised on the shoulder, even if it was through a blanket and a couple of gloves, gives the patient some tranquility “.

Through FaceTime on the iPad, patients with Desido were able to communicate with their loved ones: “To give those who face the end of their lives an opportunity to see their loved ones was more important to me than any fear I might feel.”

Walker relied on his Christian belief and on the beliefs of the families of those he works with to remind sad relatives that “even in a secluded room, we are never alone.”

As the epidemic receded in New York, Walker faced yet another challenge, a wave of fatigue and depression in health care workers.

Walker said his military training helped him recognize the “combat fatigue” signs, much like post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a clear indication that spiritual care has become a major focus of pastors, it was announced last week to allocate a grant of $ 500,000 to expand spiritual care for front-line workers and to help pastors deal with their personal feelings of shock.

As for Desido, the haven and consolation in the face of the death of 50 patients was preparing the dough, producing bread and caring for a dog that was acquired to comfort the needy in the rehabilitation center.

“We have seen huge losses. I think it will take decades to recover overall, without proper funerals or goodbye. We just have to learn how to weather this ordeal in a new way.”


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