“At University Health hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, COVID hospitalizations had been running high in January, making “it hard to make a connection, let alone address a patient’s spiritual needs.”
“In a medical team, a chaplain represents that person they can “talk to, someone to cry with, someone who knows how hospitals work,” Kaufmann writes. For family members and loved ones, they are there to listen and help them decide what to do while in a state of stress and confusion.
“To give a picture of how these interactions can work, Kaufmann shares a story told to her by Ramona Winfield, a chaplain on the palliative care team at University Health.
“Winfield tells her of being called to a room where a non-COVID patient had died. As she entered the room, she saw that a grieving relative had climbed into bed beside the deceased. The relative was unresponsive to what the nurse standing bedside was saying to him. Winfield immediately stepped into the relative’s line of vision, and the nurse moved aside. She made some quiet attempts to start a conversation with no results. She decided to change her approach. After standing there quietly for a moment, she began to sing a peaceful song. The family member began to cry.
“He just lay there and cried. And I got some tissue, and I wiped the tears away as I was singing. And then the family member began to talk,” Winfield tells Kaufmann. He spoke to his deceased relative, not Winfield, and said his goodbyes.
“Next, she calmly explained to the grieving relative that soon someone from security would be coming to take the body to the morgue and that he had just a few more minutes to be with the body of his pasted away relative. The family member responded “okay.” As Winfield stood in the background continuing to hum her song, the man took a towel and wiped the patient’s face, hands and feet.
“As he was doing this, the family member would say, ‘You’ve done so much with these hands, taking care of your family. You worked hard,'” Winfield told Kaufmann. “And as he wiped the feet, he would say, ‘Those feet have walked so many miles just to make sure that your children had all that they needed.'”
“After being immobilized with grief when Winfield arrived, the relative left the room in peace, on his own terms,” says Kaufmann.”