LOUISVILLE, Ky. - During the coronavirus pandemic, many stories have emerged documenting the bravery of healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, and the like but there is another profession stating alongside these medical heroes and their patients.
Approximately 50 medical chaplains walk the halls of Norton Healthcare and UofL Health hospitals and clinics. They provide pastoral services to any patient entering their care. In the weeks since Kentuckians began falling ill to COVID-19 Chaplains have offered their comfort to patients and their families.
“Do our best to enhance their well-being and decrease anxiety,” Reverend Matthew Eddleman told Spectrum News 1. Eddleman has been a staff Chaplain at Louisville’s Audubon Hospital for five years.
Since hospitals have restricted visitors due to how contagious the coronavirus is Eddleman says he’s focussing on three main things. “Patient loneliness since their families can’t come into the hospital and visit them. Family anxiety and three staff support has come to the fore,” Eddleman explains.
Chaplains also administer, “end-of-life,” services. Eddleman says he’s been surprised by how quickly patients’ conditions make a turn for the worse and he then is called upon to offer, comfort during a patient’s final moments.
“We’re at a time it’s more frequently, more frequently happening. So trying to give the best care and lift up the humanity and spirit of that person and continue on. It is difficult at times,” Eddleman says.
Circumstances like this become even more painful when family members of dying loved ones are unable to visit in person.
“Families are being impacted, you know more than once. Some of the families who might be able to have a visit at end-of-life because their loved one is dying they can’t come because they’ve been exposed and are quarantined at home,” Kelley Woggon told Spectrum News 1. Woggon is the Director of Pastoral Services at Norton Healthcare. Her husband Frank Woggon has the same position at UofL Health. Both say their chaplains are conducting much more telehealth, because, again, family members are unable to visit except in some end-of-life stations. “Actually, I just got off the phone call with a family member of one of our COVID-19 patients because they cannot come in,” Frank Woggon explains.
In these times chaplains are playing a critical role to help comfort anxious family members by becoming a bridge between them and their loved ones inside the hospital.
“We can go up, actually to the unit and at least, through the window, we can lay eyes on that person and let the family members know, I was just there. That’s what I did, I saw your sister,” Woggon adds.
And through it, all chaplains are providing even more support to the medical staff exhaustingly fighting to preserve life.
"We’re being called, 'Hey come, come and meet with my department give us a word of encouragement. Give us a prayer,'” Kelley Woggon said.