Why is life excruciating

"I have never seen people die in such agony"

Hospital chaplain Volker Eschmann has experienced great appreciation from many sides. He wishes this to continue after the Corona period.

Georges Scherrer

With the lockdown in March, the tension in Aarau Cantonal Hospital has grown, says Volker Eschmann. As a pastor who is under 65 years of age, he is not one of the people at risk and can therefore also work on the Covid-19 wards. There he accompanies both patients and staff.

"The patients don't see a smiling face."

Radio preacher and hospital chaplain Volker Eschmann

The pastor moves there in the protective clothing customary for these stations. This includes a plastic apron, protective goggles and mouth and nose protection. "We don't look like astronauts, as you know them from pictures of hospitals in Italy," he reports to kath.ch on the record.

Difficult situation in a locked hospital

The “discreet” protective goggles did not cause him any problems. The hygiene mask is completely different. “I found it difficult to approach people with the mask that covers half their face. During their hospital stay, the patients do not see a smiling face. "The obligation to wear the protective mask applies to all wards and not just to the Covid-19 wards.

"After that, personal contact is no longer possible."

To make matters worse, the patients are still not allowed to receive any visitors. The hospital chaplain, also known as a radio preacher, describes the case of a young father. «He said to me: I will be well looked after here. All I have to do is snap my fingers and help will come. But my wife is alone. "

Also external support for relatives

Due to the BAG regulations on the corona pandemic, she could not even take the help of her grandparents to look after the two children. “We stayed so that I got in touch with his wife. This led to intensive pastoral contact. "

"We accompanied a relatively large number of people on the phone."

The situation is currently extremely difficult for the relatives. Some of the patients would be admitted with the most severe impairments in an emergency. "After that, personal contact is no longer possible." Visits are largely prohibited because of the pandemic. Communication takes place via telephone or video.

It's not flu

The encounters with relatives in the corridors or at the bedside of the sick are canceled. These challenges the pastoral workers at the hospital. "My colleagues in pastoral care and I have accompanied a relatively large number of people on the phone," says Eschmann.

Eschmann has been working as a pastor for more than 25 years. However, when he accompanied the first Covid patient to death, he was very upset. "I had never seen how painful a person can perish in spite of the medical possibilities." And the pastor adds: "The picture stayed with me as a warning that this viral disease is not‘ just ’flu."

The inner letting go

The pastor gets the strength to cope with such situations by talking to his colleagues. And from rituals: “Before I leave the hospital, I go briefly to the chapel and light a candle. In this way I can really hand over the people I have met to God once again, even though I know that he is with them. "

"Feels like whole truckloads of sweets!"

This inner letting go in a short prayer makes him freer again. “I have to do that, otherwise I will not feel well. Then when I'm at home I always have images in my head that I don't want. "

A new culture of appreciation

Eschmann is particularly pleased about one thing: There were many signs of appreciation towards the hospital staff, on the street and in the hospital. Various major distributors have sponsored lunches and companies have provided the staff with "what felt like a truckload of sweets".

"I can tell that this has become really important to me."

The hospital chaplain would like this culture of appreciation to endure beyond the corona crisis. "I don't mean that one behaves ingratiatingly or incorrectly." Rather, one should appreciate the work colleagues in what they achieve and report this back. And the pastor concludes: "I can see that this has become really important to me."

© Catholic Media Center, June 7th, 2020
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