Texas Children's Hospital chaplain describes what pandemic is like for staff and families

Mayra Moreno Image
Friday, September 3, 2021
Children's hospital chaplain describes what COVID is like families
The chaplain said it's been difficult to comfort struggling families as hospital staff and nurses have become their primary support systems.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- There are a lot of children in the hospital, more than any other time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Families and workers at Texas Children's Hospital say they are emotionally drained. The hospital's chaplain says he is doing what he can to offer support during these unique times.

James Denham said families don't have the support they used to in the hospital because of COVID-19, so staff have stepped up to be their community.

He says it's getting harder to do that as case numbers rise now that school is back in session.

According to the state, as of Friday morning, there are 282 children in the hospital battling COVID-19.

WATCH FULL INTERVIEW: Hospital chaplain navigates isolation, other challenges during pandemic

James Denham is the chaplain at Texas Children's Hospital. Keeping the distance from parents and patients hasn't stopped his ministry, but it's been difficult. This is his full interview.

It's not just COVID-19 affecting children, but also RSV and other illnesses.

In total, nearly 14,000 Texans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

The state data also shows that there are only 81 staffed pediatric intensive care unit beds available in all of Texas.

High hospital numbers, COVID-positive or not, mean potentially less medical attention for patients.

Denham said his job has changed a lot because of the virus.

RELATED: Boy who died of COVID is Houston's 1st pediatric virus death without underlying health issues

Houston's six previous pediatric deaths all had underlying health conditions. The child or teen, who was not vaccinated, died in late July.

"I can't put my hand on a mom in a COVID-positive room. But what I can do is, I can point her to the place of connection. I can point a father to the place of connection," Denham said. "I can point to staff members, the thing that connects them most to their purpose and what brings the meaning. And that is simply sometimes, 'Wow, I see that you love your child so much.'"

He says that right now, the one thing he and staff are focused on is being present for families to help them get through tough times.

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SEE ALSO: Doctors worry COVID surge is more prominent among kids

A doctor at Texas Children's Hospital said it's too early to tell if the variant is more aggressive among kids. Regardless, she said it is clearly more contagious.