Technical skills and Christian creativity at the service of the most fragile people affected by the Coronavirus: with this attitude, workers in different hospital facilities inspired by the teachings of St. Josemaría are facing the pandemic in different countries in Europe, Africa and America. Harambee Africa International wanted to bring them together in an online meeting to promote a common reflection and above all to communicate hope, in the presence and with the support of Bishop Ocáriz.
On June 10, Harambee launched a fundraising campaign, with the involvement of its various committees, in support of the Covid emergency medical initiatives in Africa.
The meeting was attended by eight representatives of medical institutions from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Argentina, Ivory Coast, Italy, Nigeria and Spain.
“Thank you for your reflections and information – said the Prelate in his final greeting to the participants – and thank you above all for your work in the service of the sick and their families. Much can be learned by listening to your experiences. It can be seen that you have worked for the physical health of the sick, which is very important, but also that you have brought dignity to many people, you have transmitted God’s love to many sick people and their families“.
Dr. Rose Segla, gynaecologist from the Walé Social-Medical Center in Yamoussoukro, participated on behalf of Ivory Coast. She explained that “most of the cases of Covid-19 are in Abidjan, in the south of the country, where there are restraining measures that make it difficult to move between people“. For the doctor, it is a priority to ensure assistance to people who have lost their jobs or their sources of income: “In our country,” he said, “medical treatment is expensive and there are endemic diseases, such as malaria, which need continuous treatment. Walé is trying to address these problems by reducing the cost of consultations, testing and medication”.
From Argentina, Rafael Aragón, director of the Hospital Solidario Covid Austral, a medical centre created to receive Coronavirus patients who do not have access to healthcare because they cannot afford it. For the Secretary General of the Austral University Hospital, the fundamental values that support the work of doctors must be “solidarity, compassion, vocation for service and social responsibility towards those most in need” and the expression of these (Christian) values “has moved many people and fostered the participation of all activities, so as to make possible the management of such an emergency“.
Ito Diejomaoh is the director of the Niger Foundation Hospital in Enugu (Nigeria). He explained that “at the moment, the highest rate of infection is occurring among doctors and nurses and many are afraid”; he said that the emergency department of the hospital was so much under pressure that at some time it was thought that it should be closed down: “However, the response of the staff was unanimous: we will never leave patients alone”. The doctor added: “We will continue to take all possible precautions, but we will not stop expressing the teachings left to us by Saint Josemaría and which inspire our Hospital: put the person at the centre“.
The neurologist Maria Sanchez-Carpintero was connected by the Infanta Elena University Hospital in Madrid, one of the first public centres in Spain to receive patients affected by the virus. She highlighted the dedication of all her colleagues. In addition to the necessary medical care, it was natural for doctors to dedicate a lot of time to “accompany and support patients left alone because of the Virus“. In many cases, “Christian accompaniment has been of great comfort to the terminally ill and their relatives“.
From the Democratic Republic of Congo participated Dr. Nicole Muyulu, nurse and teacher at the Higher Institute of Nursing Sciences-ISSI in Kinshasa. She recalled that Covid-19 is a very real and present problem in Congo, but “we will learn to live with it, just as we live with malaria and many other diseases: there are and there will be crises. What we want to transmit to our students and to all the nurses is that they must never abandon the sick, because the service they provide is indispensable to society” and it is precisely this Christian spirit of service that characterizes learning at ISSI.
For Italy, the most affected European country, Prof. Felice Agrò, Director of the Covid-19 Unit of the University Polyclinic Campus Bio-Medico in Rome, spoke. He spoke of how discouragement and pessimism accompanied the many patients and therefore, in addition to physical recovery, the staff of the Covid-19 Unit spent a lot of time on psychic and spiritual support: “We tried to respond to the needs and habits of everyday life – the need to chat, to taste a good pasta all’amatriciana, to recover objects … – and to ensure the Eucharist to those who felt the desire.”
Ana Maria Perez Galan represented the “Laguna”, the largest Spanish hospital specialized in palliative care and the second largest in Europe, born in 2002, on the occasion of the centenary of San Josemaría Escrivá. Every year the hospital cares for thousands of patients and hundreds of elderly and Alzheimer’s patients. Pérez Galán stressed the important role of the Laguna in Covid-19’s time “because many of our patients represent “the excluded”, those who are often rejected by hospitals because their chances of being treated are remote. “Here we love them because, because they are here, each person is worthy of the best care and all the necessary means“.
During these months, Pérez Galán continued, “we also took care of their families, so that no one would die alone. To this end, on the basis of an anthropological and Christian vision of the human being, we have developed creative solutions, always putting the sick person at the center“. This of course meant a great effort on the part of the whole team “but it was worth it and the proof is the testimonies of gratitude we received“.
“The Christian response to the Laguna -he added- was, is, and will be, to love each person, seeing in each one the living image of Christ, in the pandemic, today and every day. The generosity of many volunteers was also fundamental. “Like Ines, a medical student who had contracted Covid and who, once overcome, dedicated herself body and soul to the care of the sick, for 7 or 8 hours a day.
From Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo) also participated Dr. Rene Lumu Kambala, father of six children, specialist in emergency medicine and currently director of Monkole Hospital. He explained that the hospital began receiving Covid-19 patients two months ago, at the request of the country’s authorities. “We have opened the treatment department for this disease with 25 beds and very quickly increased it to 32, of which 8 are for intensive care; given the current situation we hope to increase it to 45 in the coming weeks. We currently have 126 confirmed patients“. He stressed that “as Christians we care for these patients with professionalism, we provide them with what is necessary for their recovery; but we also strive to give the treatment a human face, because the patient is not a case: he is a person who wants to be heard“. This is much appreciated by all patients who feel that they are considered as brothers.
In the final greeting, Bishop Fernando Ocáriz referred to the expression used by Saint Josemaría, whose message inspired the NGO Harambee, when he said: “I see the Blood of Christ flowing in you! ” For the Prelate, this is the root of the Christian’s selfless service: “See Christ in others, in the sick, in their families, in every person with whom we come into contact, even if he is far from God”.
“While you were speaking,” he added, “I was reminded of Pope Francis’ reflection at that extraordinary moment of prayer for the pandemic on March 7, when he reminded us that we were all in the same boat, fragile but important and necessary, in need of mutual comfort. All this is important because “every person is the image of Christ“.