Heart-felt con­fes­sions of a car­ing chap­lain work­ing at St Cather­ine’s Hos­pice dur­ing the coro­n­avirus cri­sis

West Sussex County Times - - News -

Lisa Rainier is Chap­lain and Lead for Spir­i­tual Sup­port at St Cather­ine’s Hos­pice. Here she shares what it’s been like work­ing on the front line sup­port­ing local ter­mi­nally ill peo­ple and their fam­i­lies.

Early on, I joined my local neigh­bour­hood iso­la­tion sup­port group, pur­chased seed to grow my own veg­eta­bles, thought I would read the Hi­lary Man­tel nov­els on my book­shelves, get fit­ter with Joe Wicks, run fur­ther, res­cue a few peo­ple and gen­er­ally be a cross be­tween a hero and an an­gel.

Later on, any kind of hero sta­tus or an­gelic am­bi­tion was se­ri­ously com­pro­mised by the re­al­ity: I was un­able to con­cen­trate for long enough to read any­thing, phys­i­cally haul­ing my in­creas­ingly heavy body out of bed for a short run round the park took Her­culean ef­fort and I wres­tled with run-rage (why is it al­ways me who has to give way on the path and go into the un­der­growth?).

I also had to ac­cept that I couldn’t do much ex­tra for my neigh­bours be­cause it took me so long to shop for me and mine.

There have been too many male hu­mans in my house and the churl­ish chore-wars are get­ting me down.

I sorely miss my alone time on re­treat and my go­ing out time with girl­friends, and I’m sad that my mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s will no longer recog­nise me if, or when, I do see her again.

Be­ing ‘only hu­man’ at St Cather­ine’s Hos­pice has got to me too: I have felt my own anx­i­eties in car­ing for peo­ple with Covid-19, and wea­ried at the chal­lenges of com­mu­ni­ca­tion: with pa­tients through plas­tic PPE, with rel­a­tives whilst main­tain­ing so­cial dis­tance, with col­leagues in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally, var­i­ously and vi­car­i­ously via Zoom, Teams, What­sApp, Vsee and Life­size.

And oh, how I have missed the sup­port of many of my in-the-flesh col­league-friends who are cur­rently fur­loughed or work­ing from home.

But, be­ing hu­man at the hos­pice in this time has also been pre­cious; with less meet­ings to at­tend and less time taken up with trav­el­ling and train­ing, I have had longer to lis­ten; to hear and hon­our life sto­ries, and more op­por­tu­ni­ties to stand in the gap when a pa­tient’s own priest or min­ster has not been able to be present; spe­cial mo­ments have been the shar­ing of com­mu­nion and the priv­i­lege of plan­ning and con­duct­ing in­ti­mate and mean­ing­ful com­mit­tals with the clos­est fam­ily of those who have died.

In and through all of this has come the re­al­i­sa­tion that even when a mask muf­fles some of your words, the hand you of­fer is clothed in a glove, and the calm in your voice is only heard over the phone, com­pas­sion can still be com­mu­ni­cated, and what we are still able to do is to re­mind and re­as­sure our fel­low hu­mans that we are still here for them: they are not alone.

Lisa Rainer, chap­lain at St Cather­ine’s Hos­pice in Craw­ley

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