Reverend Megan J. Pike is a staff chaplain for Blessing Health System in Quincy, Illinois, which also happens to be the hometown of one of the Fab Five, Jonathan Van Ness.
Recently, I had the opportunity to complete an initial survey to serve as a guest on a new podcast. One of the questions on the survey caused me to pause: What one word describes you? Jokingly, I wanted to respond hinting at the difficulty of choosing one word by submitting verbose, yet chose not to and instead I took the opportunity to dig deep and think about one word that would describe me in this moment in life: resilient.
Over the past several years, I have endured some of the most trying experiences of my life. As a minister these experiences touched my life deeply personally as well as professionally. Throughout this age of COVID-19, we have all found both the deeply personal and professional parts of our lives affected.
As a chaplain, I have been trained in the sacred work of sitting in the suck with people in their most vulnerable moments while in a healthcare facility. Lives are completely altered in a matter of seconds and patients, families, and staff have to adjust to a new normal based on these new realities. COVID-19 presents us with a new reality that does and will continue to inform and shape our new normal. All of us have sat or are sitting in some version of the suck of COVID-19 in this unparalleled time in history.
Recently, I was visiting a patient that had requested a visit from the chaplain. I visited the patient and family member at the bedside, like most routine visits, with a procedure mask (new reality) on and precautionary measures in mind. I prayed with the patient and family member at their request. I left the room and went about my day. The next day I found out the patient had tested positive for COVID-19 and my visit to this patient’s room could have put me at risk of exposure. Two days later, I tested for COVID-19 and got a negative result, yet tested positive for a “common cold” virus. When my symptoms continued and multiplied, I tested again three days later and that test came back with a positive result for COVID-19 (new normal). I was forced to sit in the suck of my own difficult experience that touched both my deeply personal life, potentially exposing my spouse and toddler to the virus, and my professional work.
My family’s world was completely altered in a matter of seconds when the RN shared the second test result with me over the phone (new reality). I proceeded to spend the afternoon speaking with the county health department, occupational health hospital staff, and my colleagues. Coping with the symptoms, managing quarantine, then isolation, and staying hyper vigilant of keeping my virus-ridden germs to myself was exhausting. Yet, at times I felt like I was doing absolutely nothing. I was holed away in our recently flooded basement trying to stay connected to the outside world through my smart phone and Chromebook. On day seven of quarantine and day two of isolation, I found a tweet from James Hamblin, an M.D., writer, and lecturer, which caught my attention. He tweeted, “Lots of people are feeling unproductive. But if you successfully infect zero people with the virus, seriously you’ve been extremely productive.” This tweet of wisdom gave me a renewed sense of purpose in the suck of isolation from my family, house, and work. I had a new, important job to do in this time of isolation. My focus shifted to doing what I could to better process this difficult experience mentally, emotionally, and physically, learning more about this virus, and being grateful for the moments I could visit my spouse and read a book to my toddler through the basement window. I was going to focus on keeping this virus to myself and made Hamblin’s tweet my mantra moving forward.
I have since been deemed safe to come out of isolation in order to rejoin my quarantined family and have returned to work while intentionally transitioning back slowly and cautiously. I am still in the global pandemic suck, yet have been able to explore my own emotional, mental, and spiritual resiliency through this deeply personal exposure to COVID-19.
Megan Pike is a staff chaplain for Blessing Health System in Quincy, Illinois, which also happens to be the hometown of one of the Fab Five, Jonathan Van Ness.