TEXAS – Hospital chaplains are often needed during the most trying times – including when families are saying goodbye to loved ones entering the final stages of life. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve had to find ways to minister to people from a distance.
Medical City Dallas Hospital Chaplain Brian Quinn said COVID-19 has impacted how he’s able to minister, because now he’s behind a face mask and safety goggles. However, the virus hasn’t diminished the connections he’s been able to make.
"Never underestimate the power of your personal presence when someone is going through winter – through a difficult time,” Quinn said. "We all want to deny it, but we all want a suitable setting to be honest with one another, to recognize we're not going to be judged and what we're feeling is authentic.
Quinn is from Northern Ireland and has been ministering to patients for 35 years now. He said some days he chooses to sing to the patients he visits. Recently, he sang “God Is So Good” to a 68-year-old woman dying of COVID-19. Her son was in the room while Quinn sat bedside video conferencing other family members who couldn’t be there in person.
"Time was of the essence. And for this family, it was very important that someone ministered to the mother with the family present. And we're on the phone at this time, Facetiming all the faces on the phone. And in a very gentle way, I go up alongside the mother. She's on a ventilator, end stages of her life. And I asked the family if it would be meaningful if I read Scripture,” Quinn said. "You see a little tear, sometimes trickle down a patient's cheek, even on a ventilator. And somehow, you know, in the last moments of a person's life, you have connected and it's pretty special. And you come away recognizing what an opportunity to minister to someone going through a very, very difficult time.”
When COVID-19 first emerged, Chaplain Quinn and his staff were asked if they’d still be ministering to patients. He answered yes without hesitation.
“But to be honest with you, I didn't know what that would entail both for myself and my staff,” Quinn said. “I can overcome that fear by my trust in God. Because of the unknown entity regarding this virus, we were kind of up in the air, but we showed up.”
And Quinn continues to show up, even a year into this pandemic. Whether in patients’ hospital rooms, over FaceTime with their families, even in the hallways with the medical staff.
"Chaplain Quinn is actually a blessing to all of us. Many times I’ll see him in the hallway, he’s always stopping and he’ll pray with us. He shows up at the right time. So it means a lot to have him to be here for us leaders and for the staff and also for the patients,” said registered nurse Nicie J. Taylor.
Quinn walks around masked and wears a badge showing his smiling face, making it a little easier for patients to connect with him. He also carries yellow cards with him that list scriptures and prayers patients can go through when Quinn isn’t around.
"There's little prayers on it. 'Lord, I need you when I feel afraid, when I feel anxious, when I feel overwhelmed, when I feel alone, when I feel weary.' And most of our patients would go through these various things, so we kind of take these with us, and we share this with the patient,” Quinn said.
Quinn shared with Spectrum News 1 the most recent time in his life where he too needed prayer. His father recently passed away, and because of COVID-19, he wasn’t able to travel overseas to make the memorial. The grief he experienced helped him tune back in to the feelings his patients’ families are going through in the hospital.
"It helped to remind me what it's like for families going through a terrible time, going through terrible pain. You can't really put yourself in their shoes,” Quinn said. "I try to use the exchange principle. What is it really, really like for those individuals? That helped remind me that I need to be there.”
Chaplain Quinn said that collectively, we’re all going through this unprecedented season of life and we’re going to get through it together.
"It's been a really difficult time for us all, but oh my, when I look at the ways I've grown and all of our staff has grown, it's been remarkable,” Quinn said. "Unprecedented days, but I believe they gave us tremendous opportunities to grow, and we're continuing to grow to this very day."