A health care provider holding a patient's hand.

Sacred COVID-19 Moments Witness by Our Chaplains

Mar 5 2021

Nearly a year ago, COVID-19 changed our world.

This virus changed how we interact with others. It disrupted how we show affection. It transformed how we deliver health care.

“Throughout this pandemic, providing spiritual care to patients and their loved ones has been challenging for us as chaplains, too, especially since we are with families in their deepest grief and sorrow,” says Chris Schilling, chaplain for Mercy Health – Lima.

“But when I see a family member’s face light up when they have figured how to use their phone or computer to see their loved one for the first time… Or, when I see a patient isolated in their hospital room suddenly come alive when they hear and see their loved ones from a computer screen at the edge of their bed, I am then reminded that even in the depths of our pain, we can also witness the presence of loved ones. By them walking with us in that pain, it reminds us that we don’t need to walk in it alone.”

This past year in Mercy Health hospitals, our physicians, nurses and chaplains were asked to stand in for family members on isolated COVID-19 units. At Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center, our chaplains have taken time to reflect on some of their most impactful moments from this pandemic.

These are their memories.

Precious Lord, Take My Hand

“Very early in the pandemic, I was called to be with a family as a patient was extubated. Two of the patient’s daughters were present. I gowned up and prayed with the patient and her daughters.

During the removal of the ventilator tube the family was asked to temporarily depart, and I joined them in the waiting area outside the unit. The daughters made the decision not to reenter the room. I served as the go-between returning to the unit periodically to check on the status of the patient. The final time I returned to the unit, I stood outside the glass doors of the patient’s room and watched as two nurses were ministering to the patient.

I will never forget what I observed. One nurse was holding the patient’s hand and the other was stroking the patient’s hair. Both nurses were singing ‘Precious Lord Take My Hand.’ When they were done singing one of the nurses took her stethoscope and listened for a heartbeat. And at that point the patient’s time of death was pronounced.

It was one of the most beautiful moments of ministry that I have ever observed, and it was a blessing to witness their compassion during this sacred moment.”

Goodbye, I love you, thank you, and I’ll miss you

“An elderly patient was dying of pneumonia and respiratory failure due to COVID-19. This patient’s family called to set up a video call with their loved one as they shared some of them had medical conditions and wanted to avoid exposure.

I set up the call and then pushed the telehealth machine into the patient’s room. The patient was weak and on oxygen. Family and patient wanted me, the chaplain, in the room during the meeting so I could offer some emotional and prayerful support to all.

The patient thanked his family for their love and care especially during this painful illness. The family told their dad through heartfelt tears, ‘Bye Dad, thanks for all you’ve done for us. Greet our mother when you see her in heaven. Dad, we will all see you in heaven. Go well, dad, we miss you, but we shall be well.’”

Precious encounter

“One family stands out in my mind, in part because I was able to interact with the various family members multiple times. The family consisted of an elderly couple and their two adult children. All four contracted COVID-19 and all but one were hospitalized with this illness. This left the son home without his family.

He was sobbing over the phone, stating that he had never been alone before and his entire family was in the hospital. Neighbors were dropping food on the porch, but they could not go into the house, because he was COVID-19 positive himself. I scheduled a video call to connect this family. It was a delight to watch the joy on their faces upon seeing each other. This was a precious encounter as the elder gentlemen eventually passed away due to his illness.”

Stay updated on what Mercy Health is doing related to COVID-19.

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