First Person

Part 3: My experience of C.P.E. experience during COVID-19

Marie Conlin, MDiv


One evening I received a call that a patient was actively dying, and they wanted me to come to the room and pray.  When I got to the room the patient had just passed away.  There were four nurses in the room, two who had come to give the patient a procedure which is when they realized that he was actively dying.  The other two nurses had been assigned to the patient’s ICU room.  They were removing the IV’s and preparing the body to be moved to the holding area. 

Once they finished, they asked me to pray.  The nurses stood in a row and as I prayed they cried.  They cried for the loss of the patient and they also cried for the other losses they were experiencing and that we all are experiencing.  When I completed the prayer the two nurses who came for the procedure left the floor, but I had the opportunity to talk to the other two nurses who went back to their desks.  I talked with each individually and they both said that they came from a differently floor and working in the ICU was new for them and everything they were experiencing with Covid19 was hard. 

It was hard to deal with the loss of life, hard to deal with all the emotions, hard to go home to family and risk the chance of exposing them.  One nurse specifically told me that she came from the cardiac floor and she was now realizing what happened to the patients that they sent to the ICU and it was overwhelming for her.  This is just one story showing the care that the nurses give to Covid19 and all other patients they care for and they are doing a phenomenal job.  They do it because this is what they were called to do regardless of the fact that they can become infected themselves.  They do it because they love caring for others and getting their patients well and back on their feet and they deserve the respect of us all.  I am in awe of how they have stepped up in confusing and anxious times to care for those who most people would run away from and they do it with respect and dignity.  I also believe that if it wasn’t for their diligent care many more would have lost the battle from this terrible virus.      

Getty images

Though Covid19 has robbed so much from so many people there are also some heartfelt stories that are coming out of this pandemic and I have had the honor of being part of at least two victories.  One afternoon I was called to pray for a Covid19 patient who had been in the hospital for forty days.  During his time at the hospital he had been intubated for over twenty days and he also had dialysis due to his symptoms.  When I was called to pray the lead nurse had invited his wife in to visit with him and I was told that her coming to the room lifted his spirits in amazing ways.  I prayed for him, his wife and their three children and then left so that he and his wife could spend the remaining time together since she was going to have to leave shortly after our time of prayer.  The nurse stopped me on my way out and thanked me for praying for them.  She shared that in a couple of days they would be moving him to a rehab center so that he could finish his recovery there. 

Picture courtesy of dream time

The next victory happened a few days after that.  I was called to another Covid19 patient’s room.  The nurse told me that he was struggling to believe he was getting better regardless of what the nurses told him.  He had been in the hospital for 33 days and had also been intubated and extubated.  He shared with me in between tears that he wanted to get on his knees and thank God that he was still alive.  This eighty-one-year-old man wants to be able to share his testimony of everything he has been through concerning Covid19 with anyone and everyone who will listen.  We talked for a while and then he asked me to pray for him.  He was going to be released in a few days and my hope is that he gets to share his testimony with the world.       

Throughout this time our relationships with staff has grown even more.  Nurses also began protecting us from going into Covid19 rooms that they believed were particularly infectious.  They also respected us for going into Covid19 rooms that others would not even thing of going into.  They and other staff members were stopping and asking us to pray for them and their family members.  Since we could not do the tea cart anymore we found different ways to reach out and encourage the staff.  One way was to share chocolates.  We took cupcake pans with baking cups filled with chocolates and an encouraging quote.  Some would say this was the favorite part of their day.  They would dig to the bottom to find their encouraging quote and they would share the quote with one another.  Some would even save them or tape them in areas for all to see.  For nurses week we had a “Blessing of the Hands” card with a picture of either a girl or boy nurse with wings and put a life saver over the head to signify a halo.  We passed these out and when possible prayed over the nurses hands keeping a socially safe distance for all.  Our plan is to continue to encourage staff and patients as much as we are able and however we are able.  We will also be there to listen to their stories, their tears, their anxiety and their frustration with the hopes of getting them through these tough times.   

 

picture courtesy of pixabay.com

Covid19 has changed us all.  Not one of us will come through this unscathed.  

We have all been affected in one way or another.  As for me it has changed me in many ways and some ways that I am sure I have not have even realized yet. 

One of the more noticeable ways is that I am more patient than I ever was before and I am seeing this play out in many different ways.  I believe some of that came from things slowing down quite a bit giving me more time to breathe in between life happening around me.   I am also seeing the people affected by Covid19, whether they have it or are helping others with it and I have learned and still learning how to be more patient when I am in their presence with the aspirations to be that calming presence for each and every one. 

I have also realized that I am less antagonistic than I was before.  When I am irritated by a situation I have no problem letting people know and sometimes that is being very blunt and sometimes that is with an irritated look, but I am realizing now that this less antagonistic behavior is showing up as once again by being more patient in situations that would normally irritate me.  I am also more humble than I have ever been which again shows up in being more patient.  One thing that has tended to surprise me is that I am learning how to apologize more in situations that maybe I don’t necessarily need to apologize but in order to bring peace to a situation I have taken the road less traveled for me and took responsibility in some cases where I could have stood my ground and dug in for the long haul but chose not to. 

Before Covid19 I would not have done that, and I was encouraged by this change.  When I first began the residency I listened to others in order to answer and during the first unit I learned how to listen to hear.  With Covid19 I am becoming an even better listener which helps me to be an even better encourager.  I have always liked to encourage people and now in this time I have increased my encouragement of others every chance I get which I believe is very important in these uncertain times.  Last but not least during this time I have stepped up in my pastoral authority and this continues to help me in my chaplaincy role and even in my life.                

One of my favorite quotes comes from beginning words of Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities.  He says:  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”  This seems to sum up what we have been experiencing with Covid19.            

Not one of us wants to be part of this pandemic yet here we are smack dab in the middle of it with no knowledge of when it will end but only estimated guesses.  We are all doing our best to work through our emotions, our fears, our anxieties, our socially distancing and everything else in between.  We have done some good work and we have also failed miserably. 

We are all doing our best to work through our emotions, our fears, our anxieties, our socially distancing and everything else in between.  We have done some good work and we have also failed miserably. 

What I can say from this vantage point is that we did the best we could with what we had.  Each one of us pushing and pulling until we got it right.  All hands-on deck sometimes means helping and sometimes means being helped, and I hope in the end they will say that they tried their best.  As for me, I know I have done the best I could.  I have been up for every challenge even when my anxiety had gotten the best of me.  I stuck with it and am doing well despite the challenges facing me and everyone else.  As we begin our final unit I am excited and sad.  Excited for all the new things we will learn in this unit and sad to see our time here coming to a close. 

Dickens closes A Tale of Two Cities with:  ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done, it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known. ‘ “  All I can say is, may it be so, may each one us be onto bigger and better things encouraging one another in the process and as Covid19 becomes a thing of the past may the goodness we have seen in this time endure for generations to come. 

Note: Marie Conlin appeared on this episode of the Hospice Chaplaincy Show.

Hospice Chaplaincy is committed to promoting excellence in spiritual care at the end of life. Our mission is to advance research initiatives that promote a better understanding of the psychosocial and psycho-spiritual aspects of end of life care. We are dedicated to providing patient advocacy, support and education services to individuals, clergy and medical professionals resulting in improvements in providing quality spiritual care at the end of life.

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