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June 13, 2020

This morning I read about a dying Covid-19 patient and the powerful compassion of an unsung hero who turned his fate around.

The 52-year-old retired Air Force colonel had just received last rites and said goodbye to his family via FaceTime. But the 33-year-old housekeeper from Guatemala who kept his room clean and disinfected every day still encouraged him not to lose hope. She saw his fear and the sadness he felt that he might have passed on the virus to his 16-year-old son. And while English was not her first language, she assured him that he would not be alone. They talked about different topics, including the Catholic faith that they shared in common. In the article she said through a translator that, “When a patient is treated with compassion, language is not a barrier.”

Her physical presence, conversations and love through compassion gave the colonel the strength to live through his pain to survive another day (he refused sedation and intubation). Call it destiny or divine intervention, his health turned around and he was able to return home.

The courageous contributions of housekeeping and custodial staff at hospitals who walk the Covid minefields every hour has become so highly regarded in a time when patients cannot have the emotional support of family or clergy at their bedside.

Thanks to the foresight of the hospital’s chaplain manager who reached out to housekeepers and custodians – the “invisible” workers whom she felt might be able to fill that void in the most important way. Her efforts to equip them with ways to thoughtfully engage with patients has made a difference.

What heroes they have become.

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