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Serving Covid-19 patients during Tet holidays in Vietnam

We hope our presence partially makes up for their loneliness in field hospitals during the annual festivities

Serving Covid-19 patients during Tet holidays in Vietnam

A religious volunteer talks with a Covid-19 patient at a field hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. (Photo courtesy of tgpsaigon.net)

Published: February 04, 2022 05:51 AM GMT

Updated: February 04, 2022 05:56 AM GMT

We have had an opportunity to look after Covid-19 patients at a field hospital in Ho Chi Minh City during the Tet or Lunar New Year holiday.

Knowing that I volunteered to serve a hospital, some people asked me: "Now the number of patients has reduced substantially, why do not you return home and celebrate Tet with your family?"

It is right that all people want to be with their families on the Lunar New Year and so do I. However, I think of Covid-19 patients who are being treated at the hospital where even only a few patients are left, and I still want to stay and celebrate the national festival with them because I hope that our presence can partially make up for their feeling of loneliness and absence of their relatives during the Tet holidays.

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Indeed, the Church always lives the spirit of synodality and leaves no one behind, even if only a few still are in makeshift hospitals. Although society seems to have overcome the utter devastation of the pandemic, many people including the elderly and lonely are in dire need of urgent attention and care.

During the festival, all people could go home to celebrate Tet with their families, but at makeshift hospitals patients who have not yet been cured still have to stay for further treatment.

Patients infected with Covid-19 are those who are in dire need of attention from their families at this time. Family is the fulcrum point and the best medicine to help them mentally overcome this dangerous disease.

Patients all day only hear the sounds of heart rate monitors and other medical equipment instead of the sounds of noisy life

They are kept in quarantine, so their spouses, children and grandchildren cannot be around to take care of them. Every time I have an opportunity to talk to patients, I am told about their craving to return home during Tet.

Indeed, when I entered the hospital's isolation ward, I felt that there was a separation between the isolation ward and the outside world. In the isolation ward, all patients became desperately lonely because they had no relatives around. They only received the attention of medical staff and volunteers like us.

Life in the quarantine ward is far from daily life. Patients all day only hear the sounds of heart rate monitors and other medical equipment instead of the sounds of noisy life. Outside of visiting hours of doctors and nurses, patients rarely talk to anyone else. As a result, they are easily overwhelmed by so much worry, confusion and fear that pessimism about the disease makes them barely sleep or touch their food. At times, they feel they are abandoned, terribly lonely and completely hopeless. They urgently need someone who can support them emotionally.

During the pandemic, people were not only fighting against the coronavirus but resisted the temptation to quit and give up. Only those who had indomitable wills and spirits could easily shake the danger of dying off, and only those who really had the burning desire to live and saw the meaning of life could come to grips with the destruction of loneliness and boredom.

I also give pastoral care to patients in bed and I realize how extremely fragile but precious human life is. Through their stories or soulful eyes, I see patients always long to live. For them, life now is indeed an extremely valuable gift. Some people said that "I pray to recover from my illness so I can go back to celebrate Tet with my family."

Indeed, God gives life to people and that gift is now too precious for patients. Even if they are down in the mouth and cut up, God is always with them. Even when they have to carry helpless bodies in bed, God is still in their own frail and weak bodies.

Standing by their beds, I continued to pray to God for healing on behalf of the sick. In union with the healing prayers of the whole Church, I believe that God has heard and bestowed many blessings to all patients' souls and bodies and medical staff who serve patients.

Miracles always happen at the hospital's two intensive care units. Every day I see positive changes in both the physical and mental health of patients I meet. They are marvels as I really experience God healing them day by day.

From now on, their lives will shift from anxiety, fear and disappointment to hope and gratitude

Many patients whom I met the first time seemed so bad and scarcely touched their food and drink. But the next day, they could eat a little bit, and then the next days they ate more, slept better and were no longer on ventilators.

It is nice to see sick people get better day by day. By this time I have said goodbye to a few patients who were discharged from the hospital. From now on, their lives will shift from anxiety, fear and disappointment to hope and gratitude.

I gratefully thank God for giving me an opportunity to care for patients so that I could realize many people are in pressing need of attention and care. I thank God that he is always with and healing all patients.

I profusely thank God that the people I have met gained more faith and hope. May God continue to accompany the medical staff to help patients overcome this pandemic. May God of the Spring continue to bless all people.

Joseph Nguyen Van Duc is a Jesuit in Vietnam. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News. This article was summarized and translated by a UCA News reporter from a Vietnamese article published by tgpsaigon.net here.

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