“We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, March 11, 2020
March 11, 2020 – the day our world changed … The day the word “pandemic” became a reality. We have always done ”pandemic planning” at work but nothing really prepared us for what we have experienced over the last 7 months – what our patients have experienced.
I have had the privilege of being a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at a supportive living facility in the NE quadrant of the city for almost 13 years. I can honestly say I love my job. Much like a pastor feels called to their vocation, I truly feel God called me to mine. Being able to care for people at the most vulnerable times in their lives – whether it be walking alongside a mom as they bring new life into the world, trying to silence the incessant beeping of that IV machine, or just holding a hand and crying with a son and/or daughter while they say goodbye to their parent – is not only challenging and humbling, but, I feel, extremely rewarding. I feel so fortunate every day that I get to go to work. Not that there aren’t days where I feel tired and exhausted – and to be honest, those have been more often than not lately.
Being a geriatric nurse during a pandemic has brought its fair share of challenges, both mentally and physically – and not just to us healthcare workers but our patients as well. Can you imagine one day being able to see your family, and then the next being isolated and told no one‘s sure when you’re going to be able to see them again – and for some, if you’ll ever see them again? That’s been the reality for our elderly. That’s literally how quick it was. Front doors to the building locked. Temperature screenings in place. Nasal swabs being taken. Continuous masking. Most seniors have challenges hearing us at the best of times, never mind now with masks on. You might think, “Well, at least they have each other within the facility.” Well, yes and no. Dining rooms closed, and meal trays were now brought to rooms. All recreation activities were cancelled. Due to this we have seen patients fail both physically and cognitively.
Called to Trust
I remember sitting and visiting with a patient in their suite during some of the small amount of downtime I had one shift, and this patient expressed to me their want to “just die.” They said to me, “This is no way to live.” I remember going home after that shift and crying out to God, “I don’t understand, God! Why a pandemic?! Don’t You see what this is doing to Your children?!” I heard 2 words in that moment: “Trust Me.” I opened my Bible to Romans, as I had been reading that book during my devotions, and the verse that stood out at me was this:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, emphasis mine)
I cried and continued to trust and pray for my patients.
Sharing the Love
So, fast forward a couple days after this encounter … I should mention I have also had the pleasure to be a youth leader at FAC for several years. Our students are so rad, by the way! If you have not had the opportunity to meet them, you should – they are awesome.
Anyways, Jon Caldwell (FAC Student Ministries Pastor) and I were just talking about my work and I was pouring out my heart for my patients and what they‘d been going through. And it was then that Jon said he wanted to see what FAC Students could do to encourage them. He then spoke to Cass Neild (FAC Student Ministries Worship Apprentice) who was able, with the help of our amazing students and leaders, to put together a video called “Encouragement for the Elderly.” The first time I saw it I cried. I was able to show it to the Director of Care at my facility and she gave me permission to show it to any resident that wanted to watch it (which was an answer to prayer in and of itself). The first patient I showed it to was the one I mentioned earlier. This patient, as they watched the video, smiled, tears in their eyes. 2 words exited their mouth after: “Thank you.” The words simple; yet the meaning and feeling behind them palpable. Jesus was there in that moment, rushing His love over that patient.
God is Still God
Honestly, this has just been one example of how Jesus has worked in this time. He has blessed us with not having any of our patients test positive for COVID-19, making sure that our staff have the PPE we need, and even in the midst of staffing challenges ensuring that all our patients‘ needs have been and continue to be met.
Over the last couple months, as we learn more about COVID-19, things have improved. Visitation, while not what it used to be, has opened again, recreation activities have started again, and the dining room is open so patients can again see their friends. It’s definitely not like it once was; we have a “new normal.” But in the centre of it all, God is still God and God is still good … and we just have to continue to trust Him to bring us through.
“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:8)
Rachel Curle volunteers at FAC in Student Ministries and Worship Arts. Watch the video the students of FAC created to encourage the elderly below. And find out more about how FAC students are connecting and making a difference here!