The Lead Chaplain of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, Lynda Logan, shares an insight into the challenges of ministering to ‘our green family’ in the current pandemic, along with a poem written by a frontline paramedic…
Chaplaincy within the Ambulance Service is a challenging and demanding role to fulfil in normal circumstances, but during the Covid-19 pandemic it has become more daunting. At the start of the first national lockdown, chaplains were forced to stop visiting stations and instead, work from home. Maintaining a pastoral relationship with staff, without that much needed physical presence, has been and continues to be far from easy. Even with the help of a telephone, social media and meetings via Zoom or Microsoft Teams, any pastoral support always leaves a sense of helplessness and a question of whether or not more could have been done.
Many frontline crew have contracted the virus: some have managed to fight it off; some have been left struggling with Long Covid, and some have sadly died. Writing so many condolence messages this past year has been a heart-rending task. Staff have become stressed and worn out. The demand and constant surge is relentless, with crew only getting 30 minutes break or down time during their 12 hour shifts. Each day, there is news of yet more staff members contracting this new variant and becoming extremely sick. They fear contracting the virus and passing it to their families. They feel that they are working and living on a war-time footing.
Chaplains’ prayers are being increasingly sought, especially for crew and their families; for the new mother and her child who has been born into a family with Covid-19; for the relative who is not expected to live.
Members of the Ambulance Service, wherever they are nationally, speak of themselves as ‘our green family’. They tend to close ranks in times of crisis and pull together as a family. They are resilient – they have to be. They play down what they experience on a daily basis – more than most people would ever experience just once in their lifetime – and their sense of humour is unique. This past year their ‘green line’ has grown thinner by the day, nevertheless, their professionalism and compassion endure towards patients – whether members of their own green family or the general public – despite their own human fears and frailties. They have and continue to shed many tears over the heart breaking situations in which they have found and continue to find themselves.
Recently, David Tamarro, an Emergency Care Practitioner (a highly trained and skilled senior paramedic) and a Leading Operations Manager, who works in a large station within EEAST, has written a poem. Unable to sleep after a shift, he penned his reflections upon working on the front-line and expressed the hope surrounding the roll out of the vaccines.
As you read the poem, please thank God for His goodness and pray for all those on the front-line. The author hopes that you will feel free to circulate the poem within your churches and networks.
UNITED IN HOPE by Dave Tamarro
The time has come, the vaccine is here:
We have waited so long in grief and fear.
My colleagues and I, through tiredness and tear,
Have worn masks and shields to treat families and peers.
You clapped for us to help us win
But every day our green line grew thin.
The front line was tough: crews saw heartache and pain
But we grew stronger together while the virus remained.
The public was generous with food, sweets and gifts
But what every crew wanted was safety from shifts.
My colleagues are struggling: the suffering is clear
But no hug for support, as it would be too near.
At a distance I try to sympathetically ask
But the truth from a tear falls over a mask.
The hospital’s full, with Ambos in queue
For all you conspirators, please take a view:
The doctors and nurses, all in A & E
Treating the sick, in full PPE.
A 12 hours shift is finally ended:
The crew is safe and the patients all tended.
The fear is still real as the threat is unseen.
I shower and change to ensure I am clean:
My hands are all cracked, my face is all sore
As I scrub this disease out of every pore.
We miss loved ones and family, who with Government pleas
Wear masks and isolate, so at last we may be free.
I pray to a God and ask “Why let this happen?”
The suffering and pain is like Armageddon.
The scientists worked hard day and night for a cure:
At last a vaccine – they had to be sure.
Was safe and was tested, with brave volunteers
Who stepped up, had the vaccine to end fears and tears.
With the end in sight and hope finally here,
We can hopefully clap, hug each other and cheer
But remember this battle in years that will come,
Covid-19 attacked, BUT THE NHS WON!!!