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Caring for the sick, a vocation to love

On Thursday, February 11, the Catholic Church marks World Day of the Sick, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. In his 2021 message, released by the Vatican January 12, Pope Francis praised the “silent multitude of men and women”, who during the COVID-19 pandemic do not look away, but help their patients or their neighbours.

“Such closeness is a precious balm that provides support and consolation to the sick in their suffering,” he said.

The Catholic News got the views of a Catholic caregiver in our public health system about her role. She spoke on condition of anonymity.

    1. What made you decide to become a nurse? I was greatly influenced by my grandma, who was a local midwife and my father who served our community diligently. They both loved people and made an indelible mark on each life they touched. I only realised this dream when I was encouraged by my friend who was studying Nursing at that time to apply for Nursing, which I did, and I will tell you this is my vocation. I applied in December, was interviewed in February and started my training in July. I knew it was all God’s doing, I feel His presence throughout my training till this day! He indeed “directed my path!”. I started Nursing at the age of 24 and today I can proudly say that I have been in the Nursing profession for the past 18 years.
    2. What areas of the health sector have you worked? I worked on both medical and surgical areas. At present I am still working in the surgical area. It’s disheartening to see on a daily basis the number of young persons requiring surgical intervention. Most times they present themselves to the hospital when the disease process is almost irreversible or in the final stages. Some don’t survive. Most of them are frightened about their outcomes; some are depressed because they have little or no support from family members and others express regret thinking that if they had intervened early, they would not be in this predicament.
    3. As a ‘frontline’ worker during a pandemic how has this experience made you reflect on your role as a care provider? This pandemic doesn’t really have any significant impact on me as a healthcare provider because I was trained to handle situations such as these. I always maintain my basic principles and treat each client equally, with respect and dignity.
    4. How did it feel dealing with COVID-19 patients? How did you cope with the concern of taking the virus home to your family? Working with COVID patients for eight weeks was a meaningful one. I worked with patients with similar conditions so I was confident in the execution of my duties. I didn’t have any fears of taking it home to my family members because I was consistent with my regime and adhered to all COVID protocols. My secret weapon was fervent prayer.
    5. You encounter people at their most vulnerable; it can be a time of fear, anxiety, how do you help put them at ease? Most if not all clients are very anxious because they don’t know what is going to happen next. Fearful, because they are uncertain of the outcomes and possible demise during or after surgical intervention. Vulnerable, because now they have to rely on strangers to provide for their every need. A person’s independence is so important to them! The first thing I do is hold their hand, then encourage them to pray, also to think of something nice e.g., a place or person. I sometimes have conversations with them about any and everything. I let them know that God’s timing is perfect; our lives have already been planned by God and that God will not give us more than we can bare! I also encourage them that “God is in control!”.
    6. What has caring for the sick taught you? I have come to the realisation that illness has no face, age, sex, status, religion and no special time. Be humble, gentle and nice to everyone. Life is precious and your health is your wealth. Be kind and compassionate to others; show true love and be genuine in everything that you do. Admit your guilt, say sorry and mean what you say! Nursing today has become very challenging due to numerous unforeseen circumstances. It is my belief that if you are spiritually grounded you would be better equipped to handle these stressors when they arise.
    7. How has your faith helped you, fortified you in your work? I can proudly say, my faith is the main reason for my survival in this profession. There were times when I was truly down or overwhelmed, but the daily reading for that day would speak directly to me or I would attend Mass and my parish priest would preach about the exact situation! I have learnt that practising the Beatitudes have helped me. I always profess my faith and I am proud to say that I am a Roman Catholic! I always put God in every situation especially at work. I don’t work by chance, I always seek God’s direction and ask the Holy Spirit to guide me in words, thought and deed. —LPG