Holocaust Remembrance in a COVID-19 Unit: A Hadassah Nurse Reflects

Monday, Apr 27 2020

Shortly before the traditional siren sounded across Israel in honor of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, nurse Tamar Madeson picked up her guitar and began strumming the plaintive Chava Alberstein classic “One Human Tissue.”

One by one, the patients and staff on one of Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem’s COVID-19 outbreak units joined in, singing the lyrics so appropriate for the solemnity of the day and for the current crisis:

“If one of us
Goes away from us
Something dies within us
And something remains with him.”

The song fades out as, some helping others to their feet, all stand silently for the siren.

Reflecting on those poignant moments, Madeson shares her thoughts:

Emotions can be impossible to describe when only the eyes are visible. For once, we are able to take time out from the ceaseless treatments and introduce a little spirituality. The entire healthcare team decides to enter the unit for the siren.

As I play, a 93-year-old uncommunicative stroke victim with dementia shifts a little in her seat. She raises her hand, moving it back and forth in time with the music. When I finish playing, I hold that hand. She draws it to her mouth and kisses it. The tears well up.

I find myself supporting a stroke victim in her 80s, too weak to stand alone. She murmurs throughout the siren, “We will neither forget nor forgive.” As she sinks back into her armchair, she embraces me.

How can I begin to explain to her how grateful I am that we are together in these moments? That this is one of the few hugs I’ve had this past month. That it fills me with so much strength.

I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the unique individuals I’ve met during the last few days—the head nurse, for example, who inspires me with her sensitivity, professionalism, flexibility, and dynamism. She instills these qualities in all of us during this biological war, all the while remaining collected and optimistic, fostering a spirit of togetherness.

And then there are the nurses I meet from various hospital departments, who volunteer to work in the COVID-19 unit. They, too, forge a sense of togetherness. It reminds me of the hike we undertook in the army, bearing aloft a dehydrated girl. When one of the carriers tired, another would take her place. One driving the others forward. A feeling that not one individual is left behind. Together, we do whatever is possible so that all receive the finest treatment.

I’m also amazed by the patients. Some of them, who just yesterday were exhausted, requiring oxygen, are now bringing drinks to other patients, replacing fallen blankets, and spending time in the lounge with those who appear lonely. Here friendships are created amid a sense of shared destiny. There’s compassion and tenderness that move my very being.

I feel this compassion in the unit. I feel it looking at the screen in the control room. These are moments of beauty and human flourishing. I will keep them with me for the rest of my days.

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