St.Luc Covid-19 Caregivers
I well remember years ago an older woman named Helen, who used to mark the distances in her travels by how many rosaries she prayed along the way. This pious practice didn’t make her any less human- she was still quite a character, funny and feisty, full of enjoyable contradiction. But it did make her wise.
The world has had its own way to mark the very short span of time since COVID-19 appeared in the human family, from December 2019 until today. The time has been short, yet the impact incalculable from every angle.
The passing of these past eight months has been measured by vast statistical presentations, dramatic world and national events (both viral related and not), and by no shortage of confrontations, some admirable and some quite disturbing. In Haiti, we share the same way of measuring the time of Covid 19, with statistics, dramatic events, and passionate confrontations.
Since Coronavirus has been lethal primarily for adults, we remember clearly the day of our first known case at St Luke Hospital on March 16, 2020. Since then, we have welcomed 1,068 proven or highly suspect cases. Of these, 703 were seriously ill and needed admission our 100 bed Coronavirus unit.
Of these 703 admitted, 173 did not survive the tough battle raging in their lungs, and 98 of these were dead on arrival. We are so pleased that the 365 outpatients recovered well, and we were thrilled with the 421 inpatients who recovered and were able to return home.
There were 52 patients who left against medical advice, to seek other forms of treatment, and 32 who were transferred to other centers for more private care.
There are 25 who are still in our beds, which shows a decrease from 95% capacity (of 100 beds) for May and June, to 25% at present.
This is the passing of our time, marked in statistics.
There is also the human measure of these days.
Think of emotions and anguish of the sick people, who were ashamed of the “Corona” label, who were ostracized and threatened by a panicked population, and were scared of both dying and living.
Think of the emotions and anguish for all of us care givers, with so many of our patients being either employees or friends, neighbors from past and present, and infected members of our own team, whose very service to the Covid 19 patients made them ill.
Measuring humanly, we have our own passionate stories of what it was like receiving all those who arrived dead, on motorcycle “ambulances,” and doors used as stretchers, and their grieving families who came with them in great numbers, and how this left tracks on our hearts and minds.
And how this multiplied the fear and anxiety in all of us, with every new cough or slight fever.
Think what it was like for staff and families to face the agonal deaths of those whose treatment was no match for the rage of their infection.
Measuring humanly, we rode the rollercoaster of steep ups and downs, with the raising and falling of each person’s blood oxygen level, measured on their fingertip oximeter. We constantly offered calm, reassuring words not to give up, to be patient, to be courageous and hopeful.
We fought alongside those with falling oxygen levels, as we leveraged all available treatments to help them, as well as keeping them on their sides or stomachs, making teas for them, praying with them and for them, blessing them with the holy oils, - even as we looked at each other through masks and fogged goggles with deep worry.
We rejoiced with those whose levels rose and rose, slowly, and saw them through, and we were deeply pained for those who died in a frightful hunger for air.
For those of us all around the world who were, and continue to be, caregivers on the front lines, we have had lot of flesh in the game, and sweat, blood and tears.
These of course, were not our only activities in 2020 up to today. Nor, of course, were your activities limited to Covid-19 survival. Trying to keep the children in our programs and schools isolated and safe required phenomenal amounts of time and creativity. We marked the passing of these months with a keen eye on the opening of banks (no money, no food) and markets (to buy especially what the sick and the children needed). We marked the passing of these months also by receiving overflows of patients from other hospitals, especially for trauma and burns. We marked the passing of these months dealing with refugee women and children fleeing gun battles around the city who arrived at our very doors. (There are still about 60 under our wings at our St Mary Center in Cite Soleil).
Yet we stand a chance to grow in wisdom, in grace and in the discovery of surprising solutions to many problems, solutions which will guarantee well-being for the whole human family and the earth itself. We need to seek truth together, freely and in good will.
I thank you most sincerely, now more than ever, for your support which has helped us to be there for the people in this great time of need.
Fr Rick Frechette