CHILE, Verónica Del Fierro G. •
The pandemic has shown us our weakness, fears, and anxieties, but also our adaptability and resilience despite the most challenging aspects of treatment failures among our patients, the painful loss of work colleagues and family members. This has tested our ability to pick ourselves up and trust our knowledge, improvise spaces for administering and expanding treatment, study, reskill, and upgrade our skills via online courses on new ventilation therapies and pharmaceutical treatments. When? In the scarce and limited free time that is left, postponing much desired rest even further. —
How are you able to support the team working under you (just over 300 people), given that you have to guide them in an unknown and dangerous environment, a leap of faith .. Where a life of action is so radical and much, much more than applying medical knowledge from the intensive care unit? Give our lives! Renounce our families, friends, the world so as not to expose them…
As time goes by, we begin
to experience more pressing needs. In the beginning, the work team was terrified and paralyzed, each person based on their own discernment, without much time to understand, the hospital completely cut off, without family members, without chaplains or priests, without volunteers, only the sick and the health personnel…
The answer emerges: Together, we will find the meaning of this experience! (with a personal emphasis). We awakened to one another, humanizing and identifying ourselves with motivational words:
- Because where there is darkness, we will bring light.
- The sick touch and transform life.
- To care is to love.
- This is the challenge of our generation, which will remain in the history of humanity.
- Death is a part of Life.
- Caring for the body, the mind, the soul, and the spirit of those who need it.
For believers, the Word and witness to everyone is:
- “Living and dying in the Gospel.”
- “I have come to give life, and life in abundance.”
- “There is no greater love that he who gives his life for his friends.”
- “Mary’s Yes is my Yes, living together with her in the Will of God.”
- “Those who want to save their lives will lose it, and those who lose it will gain it.”
For those who believe in a vocation of service with an altruistic spirit:
- For the hero or heroine that lives in each of our hearts.
- For the joy of each patient who gets better.
- For the pain and the tears in the prayers for each person who died in our arms and for every video call on our cellphones that brought consolation and joy for the sick person and his or her family.
We were their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, their spiritual directors, and we even heard “confessions” before death which we kept with respect and secrecy.
We have accompanied many people as they died. Like the religious, in the spirit of St. Camillus or the “Fathers of a Good Death,” as they are known here in Latin America, we have tried to transform tragedies into “easters” but we also shared their recovery, so that they can get better, returning to life and good health, with many beautiful conversions of faith.
Challenges during the pandemic Welcoming and strengthening
To strengthen in faith, establishing a special place, a Marian work shrine, small and simple. In my office where there are images of Christ on the Cross and St. Camillus, in the bread of the Word, a candle is lit when any employee feels the need to do so, where they can offload the pain and concern in covenant with Mary, a place where they can share, cry, and strengthen themselves, in freedom.
To bring out the best in everyone, encompassing the pain of dealing with suffering and death on a daily basis, helping and awakening in each person the HOPE that gives joy and peace to souls who give themselves to humanizing care, that resonates with the vocation of living out God’s gifts and recognizing them in ourselves, in CHARITY.
To receive care from others. The natural medicine of the First Nations is very important: to know and receive the natural Mapuche medicine (an ancestral medicine) with the prayers of a Machi (Mapuche religious leader), who helped and accompanied us in this process. I have Mapuche employees, which enabled harmony and a current of love and integration of mutual assistance, in sharing the wealth of our spiritualities, in an interreligious dialogue that was also accompanied by the announcement of Christ, as the only mediator and saviour.
The anchor of Church communities with their permanent prayer that have sustained me until now, the Lay Camillian Family of Chile, the Apostolic Federation of the Ladies of Schoenstatt.
The thoughtfulness of civilians and companies that sent us messages of support, gifts, food, breakfasts, hand and face cream was also important.
Accompanying health workers in situations such as these, with renewed participation programs that don’t center on religious beliefs, but rather focus on the universal language of love, where there is a space to share life experiences, not only psychological matters, where we can shine light on life. This is a holy and deep space of each human being that allows for inner healing together with facilitators who understand that in this pandemic, Jesus and Mary are truly walking among us, have made themselves present, awakening diverse personal responses, but they were sown in every heart.
The pandemic in the hospital has been fertile ground that the Church should interpret as a sign of our times and to go out conquering hearts that have been touched by God with various degrees of fruitfulness, in which the image of Christ and Mother Mary are undoubtedly present.
I believe that the challenge of the post-Covid situation and cultural changes force us, as a Church, to make a sensible and detailed interpretation that can create new spaces for change and innovation in our evangelization, for the care of humanity after the context of pain and suffering, understanding the importance of true love, which lies in simplicity, like St. Francis, who have his life for the care of others, like St. Camillus, who cares for others with a maternal spirit as if each person were the only sick child. There are many anonymous people who did this.
After the pandemic we need to understand that a holistic approach to healing and salvation is important.
Caring for one’s health is linked to the medicine of the earth in a “holistic ecology” as Pope Francis describes in his Laudato sí encyclical. Caring for our bodies is also to care for our environment, to recognize the value of natural medicine, and the wisdom of our First Nations.
Many people became sick, but “health is not the absence of sickness, rather it is a balance that allows us to live with it to grow in love.”
Without doubt, this was an experience that powerfully questions our vocation, values, faith, fears, and self-knowledge. Caring for others as if we were taking care of our own lives is the path to mutual survival with those who are sick, even if we don’t yet understand the meaning of it. Prompting each person to a personal daily discernment of his or her actions. What is the limit of self-giving and the exposure of one’s own life for the life of many others?
An experience of true Love!
Verónica Del Fierro belongs to the Family Branch at Bellavisata, the Women’s Federation and is a collaborator of the Camellian Order, which accompanies the sick in pain and death. She is the Head Nurse at the Emergency Unit at Padre Alberto Hurtado Hospital.
Source: Revista Vínculo, Chile, July 2021. With permission
Original: Spanish. Translation: Sarah-Leah Pimentel, Cape Town, South Africa