The Men and Women Who Run Toward the Dying

Posted by Jimmy Minnish on April 4, 2020 under Links | Be the First to Comment

Meet the New York City chaplains praying for coronavirus patients.

By Bari Weiss

Ms. Weiss is an Opinion staff writer and editor, and the author of “How to Fight Anti-Semitism.”

  • April 3, 2020
Rabbi Kara Tav, a chaplain and the manager of spiritual care at N.Y.U. Langone Brooklyn.
Rabbi Kara Tav, a chaplain and the manager of spiritual care at N.Y.U. Langone Brooklyn.Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Few run toward the dying. Even fewer run toward the contagious.

But chaplains do. They ministered to the sick before this pandemic turned their hospitals into war zones. And they will do so after this plague subsides, whenever that day comes.

Doctors and nurses focus on healing the physical; chaplains are there for everything else. They are men and women from every religious background and none. Their job is not to convert, or to convince people to believe in God. Some don’t believe in God themselves. Their job, in the words of the Rev. Kaylin Milazzo, a palliative care chaplain at NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, is “to be present with people in their suffering.” Theirs is a ministry of presence.

In the world B.C. — Before Covid — the place of the hospital chaplain was at the bedside, holding a patient’s hand, counseling them and their family members, singing with them, crying with them, hugging them, offering the eucharist, or a prayer for healing. None of that is allowed now.

Family members are barred from hospitals. There are no masks and gowns to spare for chaplains, so they aren’t allowed into patients’ rooms. The sickest patients can’t speak because of the breathing tubes in their mouths; many are unconscious.

“My new world is faceless,” Rabbi Kara Tav, a chaplain and the manager of spiritual care at NYU Langone Brooklyn, told me. “The patients are intubated, and I can only see them from a tiny window. And the doctors have masks and goggles and gowns and caps — they are all covered up. You don’t get to feel them or see them in the same way.”

There is no touch. There is no body language. Sometimes there isn’t even eye contact.

“A hug is a very big weapon in my arsenal,” said Rocky Walker, the chaplain of the cardiovascular wards of Mount Sinai in Manhattan and a retired Army major. “And I can’t use it right now.”

Rocky Walker, the chaplain of the cardiovascular wards of Mount Sinai in Manhattan.
Rocky Walker, the chaplain of the cardiovascular wards of Mount Sinai in Manhattan.Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

And yet the essential work of chaplaincy remains the same: to facilitate connection. Between patients and doctors. Patients and families. Patients and God.

“I have to use my words to replace the hug,” said Mr. Walker. “And if there was anyone who wasn’t proficient in Zoom, they are very proficient in Zoom now.”

The Rev. Dr. Beth Glover, who oversees nearly 50 chaplains in the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital system, told me about one chaplain who stood outside a dying patient’s room with the patient’s wife on the phone, praying and describing to her what he was seeing. It was “a way of being present to her and bringing her husband’s presence to her, even remotely.”

Rabbi Tav calls it “tele-chaplaincy.”

The Rev. Dr. Rachelle Zazzu, a chaplain at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens, has adapted the bedside memorial to suit the new reality. She will stand outside a patient’s room, put her hands on the door and “pray out loud for God to receive this person with mercy and grace.”

When Dr. Zazzu first started doing this work, she told me, “I had about eight seconds of thinking I was going to be some superhero combination of Martin Luther King and Jesus.” Then she realized that “the best coin in my purse that I had to offer was that I kept coming back.”

These days she’s showing up even when it’s not her shift, because she works in Queens, “the epicenter of the epicenter” of coronavirus cases in the United States, she said. “I come in on the weekend because I couldn’t say to God: ‘I didn’t come in because I don’t get paid on Saturday.’”

Chaplains told me that the Covid-19 pandemic was unlike anything they had seen before in the intensity of the sickness, the speed at which it can lay a person low, and the sheer number of deaths.

Mr. Walker told me that the pandemic reminds him of serving in the Persian Gulf war — except that “I’m closer to death now than I was on the very front lines of combat.”

He praised the courage of the doctors, nurses and cleaners who work alongside him, saying, “It’s not natural to go racing toward someone or something that is trying to kill you.”

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Before the plague hit, the primary job of hospital chaplains was tending to patients and their families. Now the emphasis has shifted to caring for their own colleagues.

Maggie Keogh, a nondenominational chaplain with a Buddhist philosophy based at Mount Sinai in Manhattan, said: “I have never seen doctors or nurses living through anything like this. They are the most profoundly professional group of people, but there is a bone-weariness.”

It’s not just that they’re working flat-out. It’s that they are working flat-out knowing that doing so puts them and their own families at risk.

The Rev. Dr. Rachelle Zazzu, a chaplain at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens.
The Rev. Dr. Rachelle Zazzu, a chaplain at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens.Credit…Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

A chaplain who works at a Veterans Affairs hospital in New York City and asked to remain nameless told me that every morning when he walks into the hospital, the nurses and security guards say, “Pray for us; pray that we make it through the day.”

Dr. Zazzu told me she gets in every morning at 5:45 so she can be there in time for the “change-of-shift huddles, the I.C.U. huddles and the E.R. huddles,” when health care workers catch up on their caseload.

“These are people who are overcoming their own fear and exhaustion to do the job they are called to do,” she said. “I am the safe place to express their sadness, their fear, their grief.”

Mr. Walker said doctors and nurses staff are clearly struggling. “Yesterday I was told, ‘Go to this unit — they had four deaths.’ Then it was, ‘Go to this unit — they had three deaths.’”

“Healing the healers is the core of my work right now,” said Rabbi Tav.

But the line between the healers and those in need of healing gets more porous by the hour. Those who work with Covid-19 patients are acutely aware that it could well be them, or their family members, in that hospital bed.

“If someone has end-stage cancer I can be there for them, but at the end of the day, it’s not my reality,” said Rev. Milazzo. “I can be present but separate. But now we are worried about the same things as our patients and their families; we are worried for our own health; we are worried for our own families. Spiritually and emotionally it’s very difficult.”

One of her own colleagues, Rabbi Mordechai Katz, is in critical condition with Covid-19.

“Some of my chaplains are ill,” said Dr. Deborah Marin, who oversees the chaplains in several hospitals in the Mount Sinai network. “One of my chaplains worked so hard from home she relapsed.” Dr. Marin also worries about her own daughter, herself a Mount Sinai doctor.

If anything can shake a person’s faith, it seems an indiscriminate epidemic like this would be just the ticket. Why does a person in one bed die while the person in the next bed recovers?

And yet not one chaplain I spoke to said this outbreak had done anything to diminish his or her faith or sense of purpose.

“The thing about faith is faith is based on trust, not on understanding,” said Mr. Walker. “I don’t pretend to understand this.”

“My belief system is that we all have a certain amount of life within us, a certain amount of time,” Dr. Glover told me. “Everything we do is a way we are spending that time. I keep coming back to that, in the midst of my concerns and fears. And what feels true to me is to stay true to my purpose in life, which is to be with people when they are sick.”

Ms. Keogh became a chaplain 10 years ago, after her husband died following six months in the intensive care unit.

“It was a real spiritual, existential crisis for me,” she said. For her, healing comes by helping others through the same experience.

“Other people are like: How can you do this?” she said. Her answer is: “This is giving back to me so much.”

Rabbi Tav told me that people think the work chaplains do is “dark” but that good can sometimes come from darkness. “I actually think that when people are in their most broken places they have the most honest conversations and they’re the most open,” she said. “Their hearts are open. Their families are open. Sometimes pain brings people together.”

But the pain remains.

“Yesterday I made the hardest call I had to make as a chaplain,” Mr. Walker told me. He had a phone conversation with the family of a patient scheduled, but just before the call, the man died unexpectedly. The family answered, expecting to hear a regular update, and instead learned their loved one was dead. “To hear the family member scream like that,” he said, faltering, “was unnerving, even now.”

“I just felt so helpless,” he told me. And then “you have to move onto the next patient.”

“Saturday I couldn’t get out of bed,” he said. He has a mentor, a rabbi, and he thought: “It might be time to give the rabbi a call.”

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Bari Weiss (@bariweiss) is an Opinion staff writer and editor and the author of “How to Fight Anti-Semitism.” 


Trump Fires Intelligence Community Watchdog Who Helped Launch Democrats Impeachment Inquiry

Posted by Jimmy Minnish on under Links | Be the First to Comment

Via Daily Wire:

President Donald Trump has forced out the Intelligence Community Inspector General who shared the whistleblower complaint with Congress, which led to Democrats impeaching the president, who was acquitted in the Senate.

Michael Atkinson, the Intelligence Community Inspector General, will leave his post in 30 days and will be the latest casualty of Trump’s war on disloyal people within his administration. Trump was the one who appointed Atkinson.

As The Daily Wire reported last September, Atkinson determined a vague whistleblower complaint about Trump making a “promise” to a world leader was of “urgent concern” and sent the complaint to congress. Then-Acting Direct of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, however, said he was not required by law to turn the complaint over to congressional Democrats, who were looking for anything they could use to impeach Trump.

Maguire didn’t turn the complaint over because it was a rumor told to the whistleblower, who hadn’t listened in on the phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. The whistleblower filed his complaint 18 days after the allegedly egregious phone call.

Keep reading…

New evidence suggesting COVID-19 came from a Wuhan virology lab is hard to ignore

Posted by Jimmy Minnish on under Links | Be the First to Comment

Scientists were allegedly researching coronaviruses in bats late last year

Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images PHIL SHIVER

Several new pieces of publicly available evidence that have come to light in recent days seem to indicate that a virology lab in Wuhan, China, may have been the location where the novel coronavirus originated.Ditch the fake news ==> Click here to get news you can trust sent right to your inbox. It’s free!

In a lengthy article published Friday, National Review senior correspondent Jim Geraghty detailed the investigatory work of Matthew Tye, a documentary filmmaker and YouTuber who used to live in China. In his most recent video upload, Tye professes to have identified the source of the virus.

Geraghty is sure to note that it “is understandable that many would be wary of the notion that the origin of the coronavirus could be discovered” by a YouTuber, but contends “a great deal of the information that he presents, obtained from public records posted on the Internet, checks out.”

Two examples of this are all-too-coincidental job openings posted late last year by the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Suspicious job postings

On Nov. 18, the lab posted a job opening that requested scientists to come “research the relationship between the coronavirus and bats.”

According to a Google translation of the job posting, it offers this description of the nature of the work:

Taking bats as the research object, I will answer the molecular mechanism that can coexist with Ebola and SARS- associated coronavirus for a long time without disease, and its relationship with flight and longevity. Virology, immunology, cell biology, and multiple omics are used to compare the differences between humans and other mammals.

Then, just over a month later on Dec. 24, the lab posted another job opening, this time noting “long-term research on the pathogenic biology of bats carrying important viruses has confirmed the origin of bats of major new human and livestock infectious diseases such as SARS and SADS, and a large number of new bat and rodent new viruses have been discovered and identified.”

Tye, who claims to speak fluent Chinese, said that the second job posting could be essentially translated: “We’ve discovered a new and terrible virus, and would like to recruit people to come deal with it.”

At the time of the second job posting, China had reportedly been dealing with an onslaught of “mystery pneumonia” cases, but it wasn’t until a week later that the Chinese government notified the World Health Organization about a novel coronavirus infecting its population.

Then, a scientific research paper

Fox News host Tucker Carlson ran an interesting segment on his primetime show Tuesday night highlighting a research paper published on Feb. 6 by the South China University of of Technology.

The research paper — “The possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus” — noted that virus most likely came from an animal known as the intermediate horseshoe bat.

“Here’s the striking thing,” Carlson said, “there are no known colonies [of the bat] within 900 kilometers of Wuhan.”

Moreover, Carlson noted that there is no evidence to support the oft-repeated claims that this particular bat was sold at the wet markets in Wuhan. The Wall Street Journal reported in February that neither the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor the World Health Organization could confirm whether bats were present in the market.

Watch the full segment here:

What does it mean?

The evidence appears to demonstrate that Chinese scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were researching coronaviruses in bats (allegedly not typically found within 900 kilometers of the city) at the same time that doctors began treating the first known COVID-19 patients.

It is difficult not to draw certain conclusions from that, but to be clear, it is impossible to conclude with 100% certainty that the virus originated in a virology lab in Wuhan.

And even if it were, it is important to note that neither Geraghty nor Carlson, nor the cited Chinese research paper for that matter, are suggesting that the virus was made intentionally in a Chinese lab as part of a biological weapon program.

The matter at hand is more so about the misinformation coming from the communist government in China following the outbreak.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct a previous version that said the Wuhan Institute of Virology is located just 300 meters from the Huanan Seafood Market. This is not true. It is a different lab called the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention that is 300 meters form the market.