Some on Frontlines Find Faith an Antidote
Burned Out from Lingering Pandemic, Some on Frontlines Find Faith an Antidote.
While the devastation of a global pandemic has touched most people’s lives, the pressures faced by frontline healthcare workers have been unique and immense. The rapid increase of cases day-by-day, the shortage of medical personnel, the scarcity of protective equipment and the emergence of new variants have culminated in a heavy burden on many medical professionals. Jehovah’s Witnesses working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis are not immune to the mental distress; however, many have found their faith to be a powerful means of coping.
Jean Altidor, an emergency medical technician in the Bronx, has always loved his work. “It is a great honor to be able to save someone’s life,” he said. “This is the best job anyone could have.” But after the rise of COVID-19, the job which had always kept him busy rose to a fever pitch. “We were constantly running. We barely had time to eat.”
Beyond the volume of work, Altidor was overwhelmed by the severity of the emergencies that he was called to attend. Cardiac arrest calls seemed to be coming every five minutes. Worse, he felt that his hands were tied to providereal assistance. “There are still things I don’t talk about,” he said. “It changed me as a person.”
Normally, EMTs would enter a person’s home to provide treatment. Now, fearing what they might bring into the home, they had to treat patients in the hallway. Many times, they would have to discourage patients from going to the hospital because there was no room for them. “It was heartbreaking to have to tell someone 'no,'” he said.
In the face of these ongoing trials, Altidor found himself clinging more to his faith in the Bible’s promise of a world without sickness and death. “I know that at any given time, I may not make it back home,” he said. “But whatever happens, it’s not over,” he added, referring to his Bible-based hope. “It helps me get through each day.”
American psychological and psychiatric associations, while not advocating or endorsing any specific religion, acknowledge the role spirituality and religious faith can play in coping with distress and trauma.
Lawrence Onoda, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Mission Hills, California, noted some ways spirituality can help, including giving people “a positive hope and meaning toward life, comfort by looking for answers and strength from a higher power, and a collective shared experience of support and community.”
Altidor has experienced this shared support by means of his preaching activity as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When not working as an EMT, he spends the majority of his time in his ministry. “It is the antidote that counters whatever stress I get from work,” he said. “Without it, I wouldn’t be able to survive in this profession.”
One of his favorite resources has been jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, with its collection of practical articles like “How to Deal with Isolation?” and “What Does the Bible Say About Pandemics?”
Although aware that the fulfillment of his hope of a world without sickness would mean the end of his profession, Altidor is no less eager for it. To him, there is no comparison between what he can do and what the Bible promises God will do. “That hope,” he said, “is the best remedy for our problems.”
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