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Hospital chaplains find new ways to comfort staff and COVID-19 patients

TAMPA, Fla. — COVID-19 is keeping thousands of people from visiting their loved ones in the hospital after contracting the virus.

The only familiar faces are now donned with a repetitive safety uniform consisting of personal protective equipment and people like Michel Garcia.

Garcia is among five chaplains at AdventHealth Tampa.

His rounds in the hospital are different than those in scrubs. But his goal is the same as the medical staff: to comfort and heal.

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COVID-19 changed who he comforts.

He is one of two chaplains who work primarily with coronavirus patients.

“We have a goal that no one dies alone,” Garcia said.

One of the biggest challenges for him and other chaplains is they cannot physically visit a patient in their room until their final days.

Virtual visits are now the tool connecting families.

The hospital provided tablets to allow patients and their loved ones to “visit” one another.

“They don’t die alone. They have someone there always with them,” Garcia said.

Garcia and other chaplains serve as facilitators for families.

“They say ‘this is not what I had in mind with my loved one,'” Garcia said. “And me being present there has given me the opportunity for them to ask ‘chaplain, could you hold their hands? Could you say this to my loved one?'”

For so many families, Garcia is showing a doctor is not the only one who can heal the heart.

“Let us continue doing good because we have the power to do it,” Garcia said. “We just have to find the ways.”

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