KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Offering comforting words and prayers during the pandemic as a hospital chaplain is an experience unlike any other.
“Holy and gracious God we take this time to affirm the love that is present. The love that cannot be at the bedside but is ever diminished by distance, but we pray that our patient feels that love, knows that love and that that love will be part of the healing,” said Chaplain Kathy Riegelman, who works at the University of Kansas Health System.
It is just one prayer of many Rigelman recites at the bedside of patients suffering from COVID 19, a prayer she’s recited more often than not
“It seems like it was a month or six weeks where it seems like people were getting vaccinated, things were getting more hopeful, and we are going to be able to come out of this. Then it wasn’t long before it came clear we are headed back into a bad place, maybe even a worse place,” Rigelman said.
Chaplain Jeffrey Howard said the increase in patients makes his job much harder. He is the director of chaplain services at Truman Medical Centers.
“If I earned enough and if I practiced self-care enough that I could build a wall around myself enough that I could not be impacted, and I found out pretty quickly that, that’s not possible,” Howard said. “I can see patients in my mind that have died that I don’t think had to die. I can remember the list of people that have not left this hospital because of COVID.”
The chaplains said the images that many see shared of the ICU are real and a harsh reality for many.
“There are too many people hurting, there are too many people suffering, there are too many people sick, and there are too many exhausted healthcare workers to keep doing this,” Riegelman said.
While the number of COVID cases grows each day, the prayers and level of comfort from chaplains and other spiritual services will always exceed that.
“We pray that each day this patient will grow and that each step of their recovery will be guided by you. We ask this blessing in the most holy name. Amen.” Riegelman said.