SWFL hospital chaplains pray for families of COVID-19 victims

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Th chapel at Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers. Credit: WINK News.

The coronavirus surge is creating a tough battle for people who are working to comfort the families of loved ones who have died of COVID-19.

We spoke to three Lee Health hospital chaplains Wednesday about how they are keeping the faith for our communities against the odds.

The chaplains try to help the staff at their hospitals hold onto hope, to pray, eventually, the pandemic will come to an end.

Hospital chapels are a place for patients and their families, for doctors and nurses, and they are a place for hospital chaplains to pray

Mike Warthen is the chaplain at Lee Memorial Hospital. He told us he prays for healing and forgiveness because COVID-19 puts people to the test.

“She and her adult children are vaccinated; he chose not to,” Warthen said of a family. “So here he is, and they’re going to lose their father, husband, provider, handyman, all of those things. She was very angry about that. We talked about it. She said I won’t be forever, but I am right now.”

Denise Sawyer is the chaplain at Cape Coral Hospital. Sawyer prays COVID-19 will not continue to claim the lives at the rate is has recently in our communities and in our state.

“I started saying the 23rd psalm, “The lord is my shepherd. I shall not mourn,” with this patient,” Swayer said. “It hit me probably after about seven rooms. I go, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve just prayed for how many patients that are not going to make it?”

Courtney Ducharme is the chaplain at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. She told us she prays she will never see COVID-19 kill a child.

“We haven’t had any patients die of COVID, but I fear it’s a matter of time,” Ducharme said. “I believe there is life beyond death. But that doesn’t mean that the prospect of dying is an easy thing. And certainly not for a young person who never expects to meet death.”

Ducharme spoke to us about a child patient who was in and out of the hospital for two years battling another illness and is now back with COVID-19. She’s not sure the little one will make it but holds onto hope.

Ahead of our interview, chaplain Warthen asked a number of doctors to pick words describing how they feel. They chose the word exhausted, but also the words teamwork and inspired.

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