Kissing lepers?

It started with the radio news scare of an e-coli  outbreak in Germany from Portugese organic cucumbers,  which distracted my mind before the early eucharist.  I’m not really paranoid,  but there are two family sagas of typhoid in our recent history which can make me a bit jumpy.

Then I discovered that the 99-year-old to whom I was taking Home Communion in the afternoon was in hospital after a fall, and had been put in a single room with fierce barrier nursing because of the MRSA they had also discovered.  I didn’t quite manage to give her Communion, covered as I was in apron and blue latex gloves.  We prayed hard with a table between us.

So of course I beat myself up with guilt.  After all, didn’t St Francis kiss lepers?  Yes, but …  I must be responsible, surely?  Yet, I’m sure she would have loved a hug, at least.

And then I remembered my last visit to my uncle, who is dying by inches in a nursing home from Alzheimers and MRSA.   As I left, I had laid my hands on his forehead to bless him, and then I gave him a big kiss.  The nursing home had not made a big fuss about his condition, and it didn’t occur to me that contact would be dangerous in any way.

So what should be our pastoral practice in the face of superbugs?

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2 Responses to Kissing lepers?

  1. Hi Alison, and thanks for this – it’s a very important question! In our hospital, many patients, especially those with blood cancers, have seriously compromised immune systems, so my understanding is that the real risk is to them rather than to those who visit them. I’d be interested to get some more advice from our infection control matron, so I’ll let you know how I get on!

    • alisonpeden says:

      Yes, John, I accept that the real risk is from visitors – and maybe even staff. Is it true that hospital staff are no longer routinely checked for MRSA because it is chronic amongst them (even if their immune systems destroy it regularly)?

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