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Helping each other through tough times


More than three years after COVID took hold and the world was turned upside down, Calvary nurses Mercy and Gonz Yap reflect on how their work was impacted, how family connections were strengthened and the importance of their strong Catholic faith, as LINDY MCNAMARA reports.

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Life changed for everyone when COVID was declared a pandemic in March 2020, but for frontline health professionals around the world it was a particularly challenging and frightening time.

Not only were they caring for those who had contracted the virus and required hospitalisation, they were naturally concerned for their own health and that of their friends and families.

As television images of overcrowded wards and makeshift morgues filled our loungerooms in South Australia, Salisbury parishioners Mercy and Gonz Yap had good reason to be anxious.

The parents of three young adults, the Yaps are also nurses at Calvary North Adelaide.

“We were seeing those images from overseas…and we were praying to be safe and praying for our families – you couldn’t help but worry about them,” said Mercy.

“We were not only scared for our families but scared for our patients because they were vulnerable of catching it (COVID). And it was hard because we had to come to work and we were very exposed.”

With more than 30 years’ nursing experience in the Philippines, England and Adelaide since 2010, Gonz said wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) and high grade masks was probably the “hardest thing” to do.

“It made it hard to breathe and my face would get boiling hot,” he said.

“Our nature of work is very fast paced and you tend to get thirsty; you couldn’t easily go and get a drink as you would have to take off your PPE or your mask.”

He added that it was also an isolating time as staff took their breaks separately as part of social distancing measures and likewise interactions with patients were limited.

“It was also very difficult for our patients who are deaf because they couldn’t lip read through the masks and shields,” Mercy said.

One of the positives from the experience was that it brought work colleagues closer together.

St Catherine Ward staff created a group chat so they could get in touch with each other, while St Clare Ward staff initiated cultural dinners as a way of getting together.

Mercy said there were a few Filipino nurses in St Catherine Ward and she bonded more with them during the pandemic as they discussed what was happening in their home country.

“We were interacting more and trying to reach out – asking how are you, how is your family? Checking in on each other, the workload, it brought everyone closer. We don’t only work here as workers, we’re a family and the important thing is our connection,” she said.

“It’s also brought some families closer together because they were seeing each other more often.”

The Church community also provided great support for the Yaps, with Mercy and Gonz agreeing their faith was a source of strength during the uncertain and constantly changing times of the pandemic.

Raised in a staunch Catholic family, Mercy has an older sibling who is a Sister of St Clare of Assisi in the Philippines. Her elderly mother attends Mass daily, although during COVID she had to learn about livestreams and Zoom.

Mercy is a commentator at Holy Family Church and together with Gonz they are the Couple Coordinator for Youth for Christ, one of the ministries of Couples for Christ.

“During COVID we had Zoom and online prayer meetings and everyone was so supportive,” she said.

“We help each other, we share each other’s experiences and we pray for each other.”

Calvary SA & NT Regional CEO, Sharon Kendall, commented that nurses such as Mercy and Gonz typified the extraordinary commitment Calvary staff have made to patient care during the pandemic.

“They truly demonstrate the values of Calvary which are hospitality, healing, stewardship and respect,” she said, adding that, “not all angels have wings”.

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