The recent flooding in southern Alberta resulted in major damage and catastrophic losses for thousands of people. But for Case Vink, a Christian Reformed chaplain and coordinator of spiritual care at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary, the only visible effect at his home was the flooded fire pit in his backyard. So he was able to focus his time and energy on the needs of patients and staff at the 650-bed acute care hospital in Calgary where he serves.
The hospital immediately went into disaster planning mode. Vink was paged to several meetings throughout the day for updates on the situation. Staff were not able to commute to work or return home because so many neighborhoods were evacuated and roads closed.
A “hotel” was created in the orthopedic gym for staff who needed to remain overnight. Vink was placed on a standby list to stay and help out. A large number of seniors were evacuated from their home to the hospital where staff organized and opened beds. “All TVs were tuned to the flood,” said Vink, “and you could feel the worry in the air.”
All the patients wanted to talk about the flooding. “Some did not know what had happened to their homes. Others had family displaced. Many people had loved ones who were not able to get to the hospital to visit. This was all on top of the medical condition that brought them to the hospital. Ministering to [patients’] fear, anxiety about the unknown, and the separation became the focus of my care,” said Vink. Special chapel services were held.
Hospital staff continued to care for others even as they tried to keep themselves, their families, and their own lives together. “The chaplains hosted special spiritual care sessions so that staff members could talk about how they were affected, cry our tears over losses, and support each other with love and encouragement,” said Vink. “One person shared how some disaster workers speaking at their church had reminded people that this was not a disaster, but an emergency.
“In other parts of the world where people have no resources to deal with major events, that’s a disaster. We have all the resources to deal with this flood. That’s an emergency.”
We actually do live in an amazing land and are so richly blessed, concluded Vink. “Good to know even while we worry and weep.”