FORT MYERS, Fla. — The pain of losing a family member to COVID-19 is awful, but, it’s not just family members who are suffering with the grief of this pandemic.
Healthcare workers like doctors, nurses even the chaplains at hospitals are trying to get through the pain and suffering they’ve seen with their own two eyes over the past year.
"We've had many code blues, respiratory or cardiac arrest here recently, it’s a daily event here,” explains Mike Warthen, the head of Spiritual Services at Lee Health in Southwest Florida.
“We are making a lot of phone calls to family members asking difficult questions about should we continue, should we let them be at peace?”
Warthen says most people don’t realize the weight of what hospital staff are dealing with on a daily basis. He has the honor of making deep connections with patients and family members who request spiritual guidance and support. Warthen says the doctors, nurses and other staff become family with patients and have the difficult job of standing in for loved ones who can’t be by their side.
“People die from COVID and they die here daily. It’s heartbreaking for me, as well as for many of our staff members who are surrogate family members, to those patients who hold their hands when families can't be here, who are with them when they take their last breath, whether it's on a ventilator or not,” he explains. “It does cause oa great great deal of personal trauma."
Warthen says they’re trained to deal with death and difficult situations but with COVID, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
“This has no end date and so it's hard to to say, well, you know, in a couple of weeks, it'll be over and we will grieve and we will move on. This grief, and this moral distress that we experienced behind these walls. It doesn't end,” he shares.
The chaplain believes that will will come out of the pandemic stronger. He hopes everyone will remember to hold on to faith, hope and most of all love.
"Love is the one thing that we need to start demonstrating for our neighbor, regardless of their politics, regardless of their their stance on vaccines, or voting rights or anything. We need to learn to love each other."