Pilar Lledó: “The Vedruna Family carries in its genes the spirit of healing and care”.

A Vedruna laywoman and for many years a nurse by profession, the two vocations are one and the same for Pilar Lledó. Faced with a disease process,” he says in this interview, “a good diagnosis and treatment is as necessary as a kind gesture, a caress, a look of understanding, a few words of encouragement that help the person feel the strength that is already in him, for his healing process”.

What has your vocation as a laywoman brought you? Vedruna to your work in nursing?

The image we have of Joaquina de Vedruna, because of her inherited charisma and everything we know of her life, is that of a woman ahead of her time. If we look at the definition of health, according to the World Health Organization, it refers to “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. If we look at the origins of the congregation, more than 100 years before the WHO gave this definition, we see that, from the beginning, there are three aspects, three expressions, closely linked to this definition of the WHO, which mark the style of a way of living, of facing reality: healing, educating and liberating..

Many years before I made my lay commitment (at that time when you seek to find your place in the world, your vocation), I already felt touched by the Vedruna charism. Choosing to dedicate myself to nursing was the result of this desire to work in close contact with people’s vulnerable situations, and Joaquina was a master in this work.

Of course, this was only the beginning of a path that throughout your personal and professional life is taking shape, unifying perhaps in a single word, “vocation”. When you discover that vocation does not refer only to the professional field, but it is just the opposite, the professional field is called by another broader concept, which is the “meaning”, the “purpose” of your life on earth. Everything reaches a different fullness.

At this moment, the answer to what my Vedruna lay vocation has contributed to my work as a nurse is only possible if I look at all the aspects of my life, encompassed by a single way of wanting to be and relate “in” and “with” the world,

How would you define yourself then?

I am a daughter, wife, mother, sister, friend, nurse… And it is in this search for ways of relating that the Vedruna charism becomes a vocation, giving unity to my whole life project. It is true that this process never ends; we are called to review, welcome, discern and interiorize all the experiences of life that arise in our daily lives and in them discover the proper disposition of our charism, to which we feel called and to which we are called.

Throughout the history of the Congregation, we see how prioritizing the value of the person and of the person as a whole has been and continues to be the guiding thread, the motive of all our actions. Although it may seem at first that these three charismatic spirits, healing, educating and liberating, were separated as if by tasks, the truth is that the trajectory, the path taken, leads us to be very clear that the three are deeply intertwined and that by healing we educate and liberate, by educating we heal and liberate, and by liberating we heal and educate. Nothing could be closer to the “humanization of health care” that has been so much talked about for many years now.

Your Vedruna vocation has enriched your nursing vocation. Conversely, would you say that your work has enriched your faith?

These first two questions seem to be the heads and tails of the same coin. We who feel called to follow Jesus’ message of love know that faith cannot be lived alone, that it needs a community for its expression and growth. In this sense, I feel privileged and extremely grateful for the means that life has placed at my disposal.

The processes of illness and death are moments of great vulnerability in the human being, everything is disrupted, interrupted by an unexpected and most of the times incomprehensible situation. How to look at this vulnerability, how to accompany it? For it is when you most understand the need for transcendence of the human being, the need for our whole being to go hand in hand without leaving anything of who we are along the way. And we are physical beings, yes, but we also have an emotional body and a spiritual body. At this time in history, when we often see that health is considered as an end and not as a means, when the pace of our society seems to push us more to learn to survive than to experience a full life, when fragility appears constantly causing pain and suffering, is when you see more clearly the need to discover and experience “something” that is above that, the need to enhance our spiritual being, so often ignored.

What do you think helps a person facing difficult situations like the ones you describe the most?

Before a disease process, a good diagnosis and treatment is as necessary as a kind gesture, a caress, a look of understanding, a few words of encouragement that help the person to feel the strength that is already in her, for her healing process, not in vain Joaquina insisted so much on joy as the main virtue. Being joyful, believing with confidence that this moment is also a learning process, places the person in the best conditions to go through his or her own healing process in a healthy way, redundancy aside.

Is humanizing healthcare not only more rewarding for both patients and healthcare staff, but also more efficient for the healthcare model itself?

Engaging in humanization processes at all levels of coexistence and interaction will undoubtedly be beneficial for all parties involved. Humanizing care in the healthcare environment is not an easy task, there are many factors involved, human, technological, organizational, and finding a satisfactory balance between all of them, requires finding strategies that prioritize above all the dignity of the person and this goes through the recognition of their unique being, deserving of personalized attention and listening to their specific needs, not only those that health personnel believe they need.

Technological and scientific progress has meant a very important advance in the field of health, but the need to humanize our actions has also emerged more strongly in recent years and even more so as a result of the pandemic we have experienced. Sensitization to so many situations of suffering and loss and to our own vulnerability has led us, at the very least, to enter into new dynamics of reflection.

Changes in health care cannot be unidirectional, precisely because of the wide range of aspects involved in achieving the ultimate goal, which is the well-being at all levels of all those involved, patients and caregivers. Perhaps the challenge lies in combining a medicine that sometimes tends to become too industrialized with a more inclusive application based on empathetic, compassionate and respectful interpersonal relationships.

“My health, my right” is the slogan chosen this year by WHO to celebrate World Health Day. As a Family Vedruna, present in all continents, in very diverse situations, in what advocacy work do you think it would be more effective to focus on to defend this right?

The Vedruna Family carries in its genes that spirit of healing and care. This can also be seen in the last chapter documents, which are an expression of the life that beats within. In one way or another, delving into specific aspects, the direction of the path always goes in the search for commitment to the defense of human beings and their environment. I do not know of a single project of the Vedruna Family, in any country or continent, that does not explicitly carry the promotion, defense and work in favor of the dignity and rights of the person.

The slogans presented each year by the WHO are intended to raise awareness and awaken in us attitudes, both at a personal and community level, to prevent and solve health problems related to all areas of life that may affect the integrity and fundamental rights of the human being.

Today it seems utopian to speak in these terms, it does not seem that we can talk about health as a right, without going to the causes of its absence or difficulty to access it, when so many situations of war and violation of “basic” rights, including health care, are being endured by so many people. In the face of so many complex and hurtful realities, it is important to create networks, to get involved, to be part of that voice that is determined to stand up for justice where it is most violated.

Nor can we forget the frontiers and peripheries to which Pope Francis summons us and which cry out from the most impoverished countries and those ravaged by inequality and imposed domination, to the corner of our neighborhood. In the Vedruna Family we know that the mission is in life, and in it opting for the most disadvantaged. The presence, the accompaniment, the joint work in so many projects of humanization, the support to these projects, the participation in platforms and organizations that seek the same goal are the lines along which the Vedruna family moves and that is our way. Pope Francis has also recently said, “There are incurable diseases, but there is no disease that is incurable.” Nor is there any reality, however hard and painful it may seem to us, that is unaccompaniable.