UCC chaplain takes the field as a ‘hero’ in Chicago
It’s not often you see a United Church of Christ minister on a Major League Baseball field. But on Oct. 1, the Rev. Ally Vertigan was standing in the outfield of Guaranteed Rate Field before the Chicago White Sox played the Detroit Tigers.
Vertigan is a chaplain at Rush Oak Park Hospital in suburban Chicago. She and several of her colleagues were honored in a pregame ceremony recognizing them as “Healthcare Heroes.”
“It was such a fun experience, and a little surreal,” she said. “When the gates opened up to the outfield, it was astounding. I was a little bit focused on waving at the correct camera, but to know that people were taking a moment to remember health care workers was special. It can be easy, I think, to forget that COVID is still impacting an alarming number of people – patients and workers alike.”
The White Sox celebrated the commitment of health care workers several times during the 2021 baseball season. The first time, on Opening Day, they recognized the dedication of those on the front lines of the health care industry. One of the workers threw out the first pitch.
Fortunately, Vertigan and her coworkers — a social worker, nurses from the OR and same-day surgery, a laboratory tech, an x-ray tech, and a representative from registration — didn’t face that type of “pressure.”
Need for spiritual support
The young minister, daughter of Florida Conference Minister John Vertigan, just became a full-time chaplain at Rush Oak Park in September. Before that, she worked half-time at ROPH and spent the other half of her time in the outpatient oncology clinic at Rush University Medical Center. There she worked with the palliative care team on a spiritual care research study.
She said while “the beginning of the pandemic was like having the ground unearthed beneath us,” her training allowed her to pivot to meet the rapidly changing circumstances.
“Chaplains are trained to assess on the fly, triage the need for support,” she said. “We know how to come alongside patients, family and staff in some of the most transformative times in their lives.
“The entire COVID pandemic put an increase on the demand for that sort of support. The stakes were highly pronounced, and we couldn’t escape them when we clocked out. COVID was everywhere. That part hasn’t changed, but the more evidence-based convictions we can follow, the more data that emerges over time, the better equipped we are to meet the challenges COVID brings.”
Pandemic far from over
And while the vaccines and better knowledge of the virus have helped, the pandemic is far from over for the “health care heroes” committed to do their best for the people they support on a daily basis.
“Interacting with COVID in a health-care setting is as heart-wrenching today as in the beginning,” Vertigan said. “What makes it manageable, for me, is the remarkable work of interdisciplinary teams carrying one another through this for the sake of or patients and their families.”
The Rush Oak Hospital’s team came away winners — the White Sox beat the Tigers, 8-1.
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