In Sisters Hospitallers we want to share a series of «Stories with a Heart» written by some members of the Hospitaller Community, from different countries where the Hospitaller Work is present. This is information related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Mónica Santos, Chief of Nursing at the Hospital Beata María Ana (Madrid, Spain)

“After living through this extraordinary situation since March, it’s important that things are calm now, so we can begin to breathe, to look back and reflect with serenity on everything that’s happened.

From the start, it was difficult, chaotic, heart-breaking. We experienced feelings and situations that even the most seasoned professionals had never seen before. This caused us to make decisions on the fly in the first couple of weeks, that changed according to need and in a brief space of time, depending on the resources available”.

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My experience at st. teresa during the confinement

Anita Tsaneva, Activities Coordinator at St. Teresa (London, England)

“When I was asked to share my experience during the months of COVID-19 confinement, at first I thought about what to write, since at St. Teresa we mainly tried to continue working with residents, keeping them safe, and following the recommendations from the country’s government.

After thinking carefully and looking back, I realised there were positive aspects for both personnel and residents. We maintained an upbeat spirit in the home and tried to keep our residents’ lives as normal as possible. Suddenly, it became normal to see personnel in blue masks”.

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The roses and thorns of covid-19 at Villa Rosa

Dr. Silvia Capezzuto and Dr. Marisa Nicolini, Psychological Services, Sisters Hospitallers “Villa Rosa” centre in Viterbo (Italy)

“Recently we started to see the light again after a few long months of confinement due to COVID-19, which, as everyone knows, was particularly aggressive in Italy. At the Sisters Hospitallers Casa di Cura Villa Rosa eldercare home in Viterbo (Italy), we are gradually returning to normal, after the local health authority verified that the entire Hospitaller community was virus-free”.

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One person is worth more than the whole world

Fernanda Caetano, Sister Hospitaller and Head of Internal Services in the Global Rehabilitation area of the Idanha Healthcare Centre (Portugal)

The year 2020 will go down in the history of humanity, of the Congregation, and the Sisters Hospitallers in the Province of Portugal. Although the Congregation is celebrating 125 years of activity in Portugal, we cannot overlook the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prevented us from celebrating the presence of hospitality in Portugal as we planned.

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Providing Hospitality to the most marginalised during quarantine

Michaell Moreno, Occupational Therapist for the Sisters Hospitallers Mental Health Network in Chile

“In the commune of Santiago, the most central district of Chile’s capital, is the Sisters Hospitallers’ St. Benedict Menni Day Centre, a place where 32 highly vulnerable people suffering from severe mental illness take part in different psychosocial rehabilitation and community activities on a daily basis.

As social/welfare professionals during COVID-19, the task of redefining our procedures was complicated, but we gave it our all”.

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COVID-19: A challenge and opportunity for Hospitality

Sheeba Siluvayyan, Sister Hospitaller and head of the Thirumala Community Group, India.

“I am currently the head of the Thirumala Community Group in India, which consists of three postulants, five aspirants, and 10 patients suffering from mental illness. The centre is called the Menni Family Home. As a group, we belong to the Kazhakkoottam community. 

We are located in southern India, in the state of Kerala. Although the pandemic is currently surging in various parts of the country, as of today there are not many cases in Kerala, where we operate two centres. Since 22 March, when India’s confinement began, we have followed the recommendations and regulations of the government to prevent the spread of the virus”.

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Meaning of the Hospitaller Family

Laura Neves, Sister Hospitaller, Nurse and Provincial Secretary for the Province of Portugal since 2009.

“When the first cases occurred at the Institute, the provincial government organised to help the centres in the Lisbon area. I was assigned the Santa Rosa de Lima Health Centre in Belas (Portugal), which specialises in geriatric psychiatry.

When COVID-19 crossed the border from China and its implacable way of spreading through social interaction became evident, I realised that our Congregation would not be able to prevent it from entering our centres, where we tend to very fragile and vulnerable patients who require close proximity and who, for the most part, were unaware of what was happening and the need to protect themselves”.  

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Side effects

Alejandro Palacios, Volunteer and Pastoral Coordinator, Father Menni Clinic (Pamplona, Spain)

“Throughout the pandemic, we have learned more and more about the characteristics of COVID-19. The recent data on the side effects of those who have had the coronavirus are startling. In addition to respiratory and neurological effects, we have read about possible heart damage.

Though it pertains directly to those who have weathered the disease, at its root, this news concerns all of us. After the state of emergency, the de-escalation, the implementation of special measures, social distancing, confinement, death…

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Hope, love and Hospitality during a pandemic

Fernando Torrico, Physiotherapist and Kinesiologist at the Puntiti Therapeutic Centre (Cochabamba, Bolivia)

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world in unimaginable ways. It has affected our lives, not only due to the health risks, but also by altering how we interact and coexist. We have all been affected and we all have a story to tell.

The Sisters Hospitallers Puntiti Therapeutic Centre in Bolivia treats 60 totally dependent children of different ages, who are cared for by a multidisciplinary team. After the first positive case of COVID-19 was detected in Bolivia, a strict quarantine with restrictions and prohibitions was imposed as part of the government’s containment measures”.

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Mozambique combats COVID-19

Filipina Alonso, Sister Hospitaller and nurse in Mozambique

“My name is Filipina Alonso and I am a Sister Hospitaller of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I live in my home country of Mozambique, a young and happy country with tremendous cultural variety and many churches—which often leads us to say, “There are no Mozambicans without religion” —as well as a major deficit in the distribution of economic resources.    

Until 21 March, when the alarm was sounded announcing the first case of COVID-19 in Mozambique, life proceeded as normal, without the slightest concern on the part of many. I remember we had the archdiocese route scheduled through the streets of Maputo that weekend (Sunday afternoon). Unfortunately, gatherings of more than 50 people (among others) were prohibited, so the event was cancelled”.

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Humanity’s uncertain future

Ximena Albornoz, Sister Hospitaller and Superior of the Community in Latin America

“At the end of 2019, a small virus caught us by surprise, bringing with it pain and chaos. There were sceptics who believed they were untouchable, even as the disease visited them in one way or another. Soon, everything collapsed and we found ourselves in a critical situation. Suddenly, we had new heroes as we recognised the work of those who silently saved lives every day; they earned our respect and applause.

The world’s leaders have two serious problems: a healthcare crisis and an economic crisis. In light of the situation, the media continued telling us to “Stay home.” From that moment, our lives changed and nothing would ever be the same”.

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Thanking co-workers for their commitment and responsibility

Isabel Gaztambide, Sister Hospitaller and Superior of the Community in Addlestone (England)

In England, the crisis began later than in the rest of Europe. We almost thought we would escape it. Unfortunately, that was not the case and by late March, the pandemic had erupted in the United Kingdom. Confinement protocols were immediately applied to the infected, in addition to procedures for those with symptoms.

Informing the relatives of residents about the confinement and the suspension of visits was difficult. The maxim was “Stay Home.” The same rule applied to all volunteers as a preventative measure. There were moments of fear, insecurity, and uncertainty, but from the outset, I was encouraged by the common denominator of hope: trust“.

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Eyes keep shining!

Joana Sarmento, Nurse at the Casa de Saúde Rainha Santa Isabel (Condeixa, Portugal)

“In recent months, the world has been shocked by a virus, an invisible microorganism that has changed our way of living, communicating, and caring. Living our lives differently has proven to be a challenge. How should we act with others when social distancing is enforced?  

How do we communicate when our faces are concealed behind masks? How do we touch when gloves cover our hands?”

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Nursing during COVID-19

Fausta Sacchi, Federica Rompani and Samantha De Boni, nurses at the Villa St. Benedict Menni  (Albese, Italy)

“When the COVID-19 emergency began, we saw the need to reorganise our work and the centre’s healthcare personnel. Finding answers in different situations is part of our job, but the speed with which the virus spread forced us to take equally swift actions to ensure the wellbeing of guests and collaborators. We are now in the second phase, which certainly requires less speed, but which is no less difficult given the reorganisation of each department’s activities and the protection procedures everyone must adopt.

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Many positive aspects have emerged from this situation

Megan Derry, caregiver at the Christ the King Care Home (Shenstone, England)

I knew my work was vital to protect our residents, who are extremely vulnerable. This horrible virus swept the country at lightning speed. When the first case of COVID-19 was detected at the home, it was shocking. It made the pandemic a reality, not just something on the news. It was alarming, knowing the devastation the virus was causing worldwide. Countless thoughts flashed through my mind: how quickly will the virus spread?  Do we have enough PPE? Will I contract it and bring it home to my family? Or spread it to residents? Despite these questions, I knew how important it was for me to continue to provide the same standard of care I had always given.

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Spiritual support for the sick, in a period of pandemic

Cécile Kabe, Sister Hospitaller of the Community of Paris, tells us how they are living their relationship with the residents of our center “Sainte Germaine”, located in the French capital, during the pandemic caused by Covid-19.

In this difficult situation, we verify the love and mercy of God in our lives, because we live moments of fraternity despite the difficulties, we draw closer to each other through prayer and the media.

There is no distance for the heart and hospitality!

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Psychological support for patients in a pandemic period

Anna Honyiglo Suchomelova, Psychologist at the Sainte Germaine House, of Sisters Hospitallers in Paris (France), tells us about the experience lived in our center during the health crisis caused by COVID-19.

We have just lived through an exceptional period, difficult and, at the same time, rich in experiences.

On the one hand, for us professionals, for whom this period has been a great load of work and emotions. On the other hand, for our residents, who have had to adapt without being able to really prepare for the great changes in their daily lives.

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