Pope Francis honored nurses and midwives, calling them "guardians of life" and "saints next door."
I thought of writing a story of a "saint next door" who is unknown to many. So I talked with Pasca Mary, a nurse at Columbia Asia Hospital, Mysore, Karnataka.
"I never knew the nursing job is so holy until I came to work for the COVID-19 patients," she told me.
She talked of her difficulties, of leaving her family, but at the same time of the joy of serving her patients.
Pasca Mary was at home on March 22 when the Indian government announced a lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
She wanted to return to work on 25th, but the government announced the lockdown until the 15th of May.
She thought that she is was saved from the pandemic, but she was disappointed when she received a summon to report for work because she was in charge of the natal ward in the hospital.
Her family discouraged her, and even asked her to resign from her job.
Pasca Mary was confused. She closed her eyes and prayed to God for guidance.
"It was God’s grace that led me to discern, to take the risk, and to travel 80 kilometers to report for duty," she later told me.
"It was not only a blessing, but God was with me all throughout. If it’s not for God, I would have not taken the risk," she said.
Pasca Mary claimed she was deeply touched by the words of Jesus who said: "I have come to serve not to be served."
"One question was haunting me always. If not now, then when?"
She said that question made her decide to leave her family and to work for the community that was haunted by the diesease.
She knew it would be painful for her to leave her children, so she set off early in the morning before they woke up.
On the first day in the hospital, Pasca Mary was anxious and worried, but she reminded herself of the pledge that she made when she finished her studies.
Many of her colleagues did not report for work, others resigned from their job as many patients with symptoms of COVID-19 were admitted.
Pasca Mary saw that they were afraid and helpless. Then she began to talk to them. When she heard their pain, she completely forgot her worries. She did her best to take care of them.
The patients cries. Some that they were going to die. But Pasca Mary made them all feel at home with her.
"Nurses are like mothers," she said. "We need to treat our patients with motherly care."
She said "motherly care" makes patients think that nurses and doctors are like "God on earth."
"Thus, we became mothers 24/7 -- mother to our children at home and mother to our patients in the hospital," she said.
There were times that she would long for her children at home, but because of her commitment to her nursing job she had to sacrifice.
Working with COVID-19 patients made her realize the "greatness and holiness" of the nursing profession.
She said that although it is difficult to leave the family and to take risks to work with the patients, "the joy is greater." - Fr. Anthony Swamy, SVD