Father Van der Maelen is not only religious, he is also an employee of the Saint-Antoine hospital in Paris. It has the rectangular badge, it is part of the services. In all hospitals, religious accompany the sick and families. But in this period of the Covid-19 epidemic, Father Van der Maelen has decided to be reachable day and night, almost seven days a week: “Even though I am employed by the hospital, it is not primarily a job, it is my mission, my vocation.”
“We have people who are in distress, who live in solitude, with anxieties, we have to be there for them.”Father Van der Maelen
The abbot has worked in the hospital for five years. The team of volunteers with which he normally officiates has been reduced to the strict minimum. That is to say, he is alone to strengthen humanity in the medical world. “Legally, my role is strictly religious, spiritual, he explains. But in reality, we talk about everything with the sick, and even with the caregivers. It is a human presence that humanizes the hospital, because in fact, the teams are few in number, sometimes overwhelmed, they face terrible situations, so it makes it possible to put man back at the heart of care, which can be sometimes very technical. “
Nicolas Van der Maelen has access to all services including emergencies and the death chamber. He works in blouse, charlotte, mask. For him, this second wave is more peaceful than the first: “It’s less anxiety-provoking, we have more equipment, we also have more know-how, I think, in all the departments of the hospital, to welcome patients, but also families.”
What has also changed is that families can visit the sick, under certain conditions. Seen from the chaplaincy, it is fundamental: “For the patient, it is an opening to the world, to life, explains the abbot. The patient lives by proxy, he lives through the people who visit him, who tell him what they are doing, what they are going through. “
“We stop talking about the disease, we talk about all kinds of things, everyday life, the very banality of everyday life and it is vital for the patient.”Father Van der Maelen
At Saint-Antoine hospital, non-Covid services also remained open. This makes Father Van der Maelen a slightly more standardized hospital than last spring.