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Christians on the frontline: ‘We are creatively finding new ways to show compassion’

Deacon Deborah Louise Wilde is chaplaincy team leader at Furness General Hospital, Cumbria. She shares the challenges facing pastoral care teams and those ministering to the sick in the time of Covid-19

With three colleagues across the Bay unwell and our volunteer team ‘stepped down’ for the interim, it has been a challenge to maintain a chaplaincy presence since the pandemic started.

Today, on our paediatric ward, a consultant friend told me that every registrar on the ward was sick, awaiting testing for coronavirus. Staff are working long hours and many are anxious about taking the virus home to those they love.

I struggle when gowned, masked and goggled, sitting beside a patient on a respirator. Their words, offered on breath they can scarcely spare, I can barely hear.

It is heartbreaking when I listen to families unable to visit their loved one, desperate to comfort them, to sit beside their bed. The care that my hospital is so proud of, the extra touches of love and thought, are still there but we are creatively finding new ways to show compassion. We utilise letter writing, phones and Facetime so patients can hear from loved ones, but the things we took for granted are no longer safe measures of comfort (such as a hug for an exhausted team member or a pat on the shoulder).

Each day we hope to be a presence of peace, of comfort and hope. Some days are easier; some are downright exhausting and sad. Presently, a member of my volunteer team is very sick in our hospital; a gentle-hearted man who has encouraged so many of us.

The impact of Covid-19 will certainly be obvious in years to come and speciality groups within healthcare are talking together about bereavement, end-of-life care, paediatric healthcare, spiritual and psychological resilience and changes to be made in its wake.

What is transformative is God’s grace and presence, despite our human vulnerability. Honestly, even though we are reminded of our fragility each new day, I thank God for renewed breath, for grace and love to work in his service, but mostly for those who minister to me. 

And so each day I thank God for gifts of hope, hand sanitisers sent by local firms, our local mission community sending gifts of toiletries, donations of food and their prayers to support us.

Pray with us: for the hospitals of Morecambe Bay, for the people we care for, for those who wait at home. Pray our staff have renewed strength and hope, which transforms us and all we do.

Read 5 other stories of Christians on the frontline, only in the new issue of Premier Christianity magazine. Subscribe for only £4.95/month to receive full online and print access

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