Meeting God in the Covid Ward

Freda Howell McMahon   |   July 19, 2021 

“Your heart rate is too high and so is your respiratory rate. We will have to move you to GMC (Goa Medical College); plasma therapy is our only option.”

The doctor’s voice was laden with concern and anxiety. I was lying in bed in the female Covid ward at Hospicio Hospital. While walking back from the bathroom, I had felt more out of breath than usual, but ignored it. The doctor had come for her daily rounds, dressed in her PPE, with her team of nurses and doctors around her. My mom-in-law was lying in the bed next to me. I was glad that I had not been admitted all alone. She would fill up my bottle for me since my amniotic fluid was low, and I had no option but to stay well hydrated. I was also on mandatory bed rest because of gestational hypertension and occasional spotting. Each time I would have a coughing fit, my husband said, it looked as if my womb was hitting my chin. I on the other hand felt as if my baby would just pop out or I would go into premature labour.

Hearing the doctor’s words, all signs of bravery slipped away from me as I started crying. I didn’t want to go to GMC. Hospicio was a brand new hospital, and even though I was admitted for Covid, it felt like I was just staying in a really nice hotel, with all expenses borne by the government. GMC had all the hospital feels and only the most serious cases would be sent there. I did not want to be on a ventilator, nor did I understand what the doctor meant when she said the 'only option. Was I about to die? My mom in law tried to comfort me, but my mind was racing.

The doctor interrupted the cars speeding down the highway of my mind, and said, “You are so precious. Each day I come in and inquire about you. I am not worried about anyone here except you.” The fact that I was pregnant meant that I was not getting the same treatment as everyone else in the female ward. I was getting medicines to treat the pneumonia I had developed, but nothing specifically for Covid.

The word precious stuck in my mind. I remembered an incident during my first counselling course while studying in one of the northern territories in Canada, Nunavut. Part of learning counselling involves going through counselling yourself, and one day after I had poured my heart out to the kindly old professor and his wife, he looked at me later in the day, and said, “I will call you precious.” “That is so corny!” I had replied, but honestly, it was a balm to my soul; it was God reminding me I was precious to Him no matter what, and here I was lying in bed with Covid, with the same reminder again; I was precious.

The anxiety slipped away. Another doctor came and joined the medical professionals around my bed, and told me that they would observe me for another day. I just needed to stay calm. I was not being packed up and sent off to the government hospital. I was reminded of the words I had read in the Bible that morning and written as a prayer into my prayer journal. Here is what I had written:

“I lift my eyes up to the hills; I remember the ones I can see from my room; where does my help come from? Does it come from majestic mountains? Nay, not so, my help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth; the One who made majestic mountains, roaring seas and the tiny cocoon and gurgling stream. You, oh Lord, are my help too. You will not let my foot slip, Oh Lord. You so gently and tenderly watch over me when I sleep; you, mighty God of Israel watch over me when I sleep. You, mighty God of Israel, who watch over me all the time, neither slumber nor sleep yourself. Thank you, Lord! I thank You, Lord, that You are my shade at my right hand. The sun will not harm me by day, nor the moon by night. I thank you, Lord! My Lord will keep me from all harm. He is watching over my life. He is watching over my coming and going both now and forevermore. Thank you, Lord!”

I was safe in the care of my Lord no matter what happened. I fixed my thoughts on Him once again and could breathe easily.

During my days at the hospital, I experienced God in a way that I never had before. He was as close to me as any person had ever been and even more. God, I am certain, had always been as close, it was just me who was so occupied with things and people, that I had never enjoyed such an intimate relationship with God before. Psalm 23, so popular for its personal imagery and poetry, had now come to life. Often I would ask God to just carry me, His little lamb, in His arms because I had no strength and He was my strong and loving Shepherd; my baby and I were safe with Him.

At other times, I had an image of God taking me on a wild adventure with Him, but I was still safe because He was in the driver’s seat. I was the passenger, holding on tightly to Him. The most intimate of all images was God carrying me, His little daughter in His arms, and calling me ‘precious’. I refer to these descriptions as images, and yet they were all so real; I lived each one of them.

In the Bible, the Psalmist acknowledges that it was good for him to be afflicted so that he may learn God’s statutes (Ps. 119:71). Truly, it was good for me to be afflicted, as well, so that I may begin to know God more deeply and gain perspective of what is important in life. I felt bad about how much time I had been wasting in front of Netflix in the name of unwinding, the ungrateful posture in which I could spend my days thinking about what life could be, and how I was more bothered to have a beautiful home than a beautiful heart. No, I would not trade in those days of affliction for anything else.

When I got discharged from the hospital, the feeling of fresh breeze against my skin felt like soft kisses. I insisted that we keep the window down in the car so that I could feel the warmth of the blazing sun. Hearing my daughter’s stories was music to my ears. It’s now been six months since I got discharged, and we now have a three-month-old, healthy little baby girl.  It was easy to be close to God when I was laid up in bed, acutely aware of my dependence on Him. Now I can again give in to the temptation to think that I have things under control and don’t need to go to God for everything. I had wrongly thought to myself that from now my life would be different. The truth is mountaintop experiences do not last forever and therefore spiritual disciplines are extremely important.

For me personally, reading and meditating on the Bible and journaling have been very helpful. The practice of journaling helped me through my time at the hospital; I was able to turn back the pages and read God’s promises and accounts of His faithfulness. The Bible was full of words of true comfort.

The doctor’s words that morning shook me, but thankfully I did not need to be moved to the other hospital. God healed me and kept my baby and me safe. The mandatory bed rest and COVID experience forced me to slow down enough to realize how vain busyness can be and how beautiful it is to spend time with our Creator. I hope that you too can find rhythms in your daily life to enjoy our Creator more and rest in His presence; He alone gives meaning to our lives.


Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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Freda Howell McMahon

Freda McMahon lives in a little Goan village with her husband and two daughters. She is a counsellor by profession, a homeschooling mom, and in constant need of God’s grace. Dark chocolate with sea salt, good conversation and solitude are a few of her favourites.

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