Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville’s Paul Luna has made it his life’s mission to offer emotional and spiritual support to patients, their families, and hospital employees.
While an unprecedented global pandemic made that mission more difficult, Luna, a Board Certified Chaplain and the hospital’s Pastoral Services Supervisor, knew his community needed him to be equal to that challenge.
For those efforts to provide comfort to all, especially COVID patients who could not be visited by family members during the height of the pandemic, Luna was recently named a Tenet Hall of Fame Honoree, the nationwide company’s highest honor.
“Paul truly exemplifies the fact that at Valley Baptist, we are a community helping a community. Every community has its stabilizers, or as we say in the church or in the religious sense, the shepherd,” said Valley Baptist Health System Vice President of Mission and Ministry Joe Perez. “The shepherd is the one that helps people know that the holy is here and is walking with us, and Paul demonstrates that in a great way. He was the first of our chaplains to start seeing COVID patients. He did that on his own, and it was his heart that led him to do that. He learned how to utilize the personal protective equipment to safeguard himself, and he went right in to offer comfort to those patients.”
Perez said that as the pandemic continued, Luna remained steadfast in his mission to care for others as he personally found ways to keep COVID patients and their families connected through isolation, even as the hospital bore the brunt of the pandemic’s lengthy surge.
“He was right there helping staff connect patients with their families through FaceTime or whatever form of video communication was available, because he knew it was so important as he saw so many of these patients suffering through the isolation,” Perez said. “I know he doesn’t see it this way personally, but Paul was a hero who took the impetus to step into the fray for the good of others.”
Even during his efforts to care for the spiritual needs of the hospital’s patients, Luna also found the strength and compassion to care for members of his Valley Baptist family, said Valley Baptist-Brownsville Chief Nursing Officer Michelle Aguilar.
“Paul has always been such a strong support figure for our staff members, even in the worst times,” she said. “His strength is a relief to us all, and we cannot say enough how much we need and appreciate everything that Paul does for all of us at Valley Baptist.”
Luna has served as a chaplain at Valley Baptist-Brownsville for more than a decade, and even through the COVID-19 pandemic, he said he still believes it is a privilege to support to others.
“I think as a chaplain, I’m given the special opportunity to be able to not only work with patients, but their families and staff as well,” he said. “I get to reach out to all those different people and somehow connect and network with them to offer emotional and spiritual support.”
Despite his recent honors, Luna remains humble and ready to help those in need of comfort and compassion.
“Sometimes things can be overwhelming for our staff, patients, or families, so to journey with them in that moment/s is a wonderful privilege,” he said. “To be able to help them and give them support even through the darkest times is sacred and truly an honor.”