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Sisters in Health: Sr Alicson walks in the footsteps of Jesus’ healing ministry

Sr Alicson Hudlin SJ loves nursing. Her enthusiasm for helping people has not dimmed through the many decades of service nor the Covid-19 pandemic. She considers herself to be walking in the footsteps of Jesus with His healing ministry.

Born and raised in the village of Mon Diable, she was the eight of eleven (six girls and five boys) children, born to Henderson and Agnes Hudlin. Her older siblings told her when she was about four years and they asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, her response was a nurse and a nun. Her family wondered where she got the idea. The only religious community in the vicinity was the Holy Faith Sisters based in Penal. “I did not know them at that age”, Sr Hudlin said in an interview June 22.

At 18 years she began training as a nursing assistant at the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH). Days before graduating she entered the St Joseph Convent Novitiate in Arouca. She was 20 years.

“This was what I felt God was calling me to…I just felt this was what I wanted to do with my life… I had great support from my family, my parents”, she said. Her foundation in the Catholic faith was planted by her family. Sr Hudlin remembers her grandmother, Laura ‘Granny’ Nelson, walked through the village knocking on doors alerting the community about Mass at St Martin de Porres RC church. Family members remember her encouraging them to accompany her on Saturday to help prepare the church for Mass. Nelson had a good rapport with the priests and it became a routine for them to ask, “granny, where is the coffee?” as it was customary of her to prepare refreshments for them.

She shared one of her memories as a student nurse was working with another student to give daily baths to a geriatric patient at PoSGH . While at the novitiate, she had a “dream” in which the woman thanked her and told her she was going. She checked the time, it was 1.15 a.m. When Sr Hudlin took up duties later, she found out the woman had died at that time. Sr Hudlin said many nurses have had this kind of experience.

Sr Hudlin at the Diego Martin Health Centre, April 10.

After her First Profession of Vows in 1988, she went to St Lucia and furthered her training. She entered the Nursing progamme at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. She returned to Trinidad in 1996 and made her Final Profession of Vows to the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny. Sr Hudlin told the Catholic News she has celebrated and passed her silver jubilee. “I forget the years, I stopped counting” she said before an exuberant chuckle.

After returning to Trinidad, she worked in midwifery at the San Fernando General Hospital. Sr Hudlin went to PoSGH in2006 and subsequently began working in communities. “I enjoy it… I love being able to teach younger people…. When I came up to work in PoSGH…, I was kind of responsible for helping, doing the practical aspects of midwifery with student midwives” Sr Hudlin said. For two to three years, she supervised home births. One of the responsibilities of a midwife trainee is to do three home deliveries. “…I think that is one of the most beautiful things about midwifery; that home birth where the family is involved”.

There were times the young children in the household wept to remain with their mother during the delivery. Sr Hudlin said they are positioned at the head of the bed so the experience will not be too traumatic. “They can hold on to mummy and the baby is born; it is so beautiful”.

The joys of home deliveries

During one home visit with a student, she quietly observed that the husband seemed short-tempered with his wife. He had intended to leave before the delivery to get something for the nurses to eat but Sr Hudlin said this was not necessary. She coaxed him to support his wife during the birth.

“…and when he saw the baby’s head coming out; he started to weep and we just looked at him…. I said let us deal with the baby and we will help him out after”.

Trainee midwives must do visits for ten consecutive days after a delivery; the first three days on mornings and evenings. “As the supervising midwife we will go back and visit, and when I went back to visit maybe about two days after, the entire dynamic of that family changed; I saw a more loving, caring husband; He was not that harsh person I saw initially”.

Sr Hudlin has encountered former clients who still remembers her. She reflects that one of the beautiful things about her job was people who see her as “my midwife”. They are proud to introduce the now grown baby she delivered.

As a nurse in the Maracas/St Joseph health centre for the past four years, she meets persons in varied circumstances. They share their struggles and she tries to assist whenever she can.

Nursing during a pandemic

Out of concern for her fellow community members, who are aged at St Joseph Convent, St Joseph, Sr Hudlin contacted the provincial superior on the idea of her staying in another community.

“At work we discussed what were the best options; and we followed the guidelines of the Ministry [of Health]. It has become much, much more difficult”. Sr Hudlin has been on the field assisting with administering vaccines to persons. She offered to serve in the vaccine programme to experience what it was like working during a pandemic.

“You protect yourself, you protect your immediate family, you protect your immediate family, you protect society by extension …we have to have a whole change of mindset and how we do things to protect each other.”

Sr Hudlin does not deny that taking care of people during a pandemic can be tough, but it has made her even more happy to have the support of her church community. Keeping routines of morning and evening prayer, Holy Hour during the week, novenas has helped her. “Sometimes I come home, I am so tired, and I want to go in bed and sleep but ‘no’ I have my community, my community has prayers at this time, we have meals together at a certain time, be there for supper with them, that makes a difference; to have people and the community at home [St Joseph Convent, St Joseph] with me in order to help stabilise my life as a religious sister as well”. There is not even a slight hesitation when she is asked about what she loves about nursing. “Every aspect”, is the confident response. “I love what I am doing; I love nursing, so I give my all to the clients”.