Posted on Monday 1 June 2020
The Archbishop of Canterbury with Ellen Eames and her baby son Alexander.
A woman who was unwell after the birth of her son was delighted to have him blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury while they were in hospital.
Ellen Eames, 38 from Walworth in London, was found to have dangerously high blood pressure at the end of her pregnancy and was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital last month. After the birth of her baby Alexander, she needed to stay in hospital with him for a further eight days while staff worked hard to get her blood pressure under control.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Ellen’s husband Ken had to go home after Alexander was born. With churches closed, Ellen also knew it could be a long time until he could get baptised.
Ellen, a vicar, said: “Luckily my recovery from the birth was fine but emotionally it was a very hard week for me and for Ken, who was spending his first week as a father at home by himself and wasn’t allowed to visit us.”
She asked to talk to a member of the chaplaincy team for support and was visited by Revd Mia Hilborn, head of spiritual healthcare at the hospital. She told Ellen that she could arrange for Alexander to be blessed.
Ellen said: “In normal circumstances we would have asked a priest to bless Alexander on his first visit to church but I didn’t know how long it would be until churches would re-open.
“I also didn’t know when I’d next be near another priest. There is something very important about being ministered to by someone else.”
When Revd Hilborn returned she brought a special visitor with her to perform the blessing – the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has been volunteering with the chaplaincy team at St Thomas’ Hospital during the coronavirus outbreak. He has been visiting patients to offer support with the team, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment.
Ellen said: “It made it extra special to have such an important visitor. I'd never met the Archbishop before even though I'm a priest in the Church of England, of which he's the spiritual leader.
“It meant a lot to me that my baby could receive a blessing, especially at a challenging time. It was comforting to be reminded of God’s blessing and that Alexander is part of God’s story, despite being in hospital and in the middle of a difficult time for everyone.
“We would have had a blessing the first Sunday we could take him to church. It was really special that it was able to happen in hospital.
“I had a lovely chat with the Archbishop. I talked about the difficult week I was having and he was very sympathetic. He and Mia were both delighted to see Alexander, who won’t meet anyone else for a long time, so it was a very special experience overall.”
Shortly after his visit on Easter Sunday, Ellen was told that she was finally able to go home. She said: “Easter Sunday is all about hope and new life in the resurrection of Jesus. After what had been quite a dark and difficult week, it was such a joyful sign of hope to receive an Easter blessing from the Archbishop. We were his first ever chaplaincy patients, and then to be told by the doctors that we could finally go home was lovely.
“Since then, even though we haven’t been able to introduce Alexander to any relatives, it’s been wonderful to be home together just the three of us.
“The support of the chaplaincy team at St Thomas’ meant so much to me. Hospital chaplains are very special. The doctors and nurses who come to see you are great but they are working hard to get you back to physical health, while the chaplains are there to listen and offer spiritual and emotional comfort. They have time to listen to whatever you feel like talking about.”
Revd Hilborn said: “We are very thankful to the Archbishop of Canterbury for taking the time to visit patients at St Thomas’ Hospital. Some of these patients are very unwell and having the support and blessings of the Archbishop at a difficult time has meant the world to them.
“We are delighted to be being able to offer parents the option to have a baby blessing at a time when christenings and baptisms are not possible. I was very happy to be part of the blessing for Alexander and it is wonderful to know how much Ellen appreciated it.”