She may have been scared of them as a child but in her working life as a chaplain, hospitals are a place where Natasha Pritchard finds God every day.
In fact Natasha, who is assistant Catholic chaplain at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and Broadgreen Hospital, believes she gets to see God everywhere in her working environment – "and that's not an exaggeration".
"The patients are in these really vulnerable positions, facing death or serious operations, and they trust in God," says Natasha, originally from SS. Peter and Paul, Crosby but now a parishioner of Christ the King, Childwall. "The way they respond to their illness, there's something really beautiful about that – I see God there. I've never seen such humility and strength in human beings as I've seen in hospital."
The Lord is also at work, she adds, through her colleagues and the volunteers that assist them. "I love seeing Christianity in action through our volunteers. They love putting God first and giving of themselves to the patients. The volunteers really welcomed me when I first started and we have a great working relationship."
Indeed, this month marks her fourth anniversary in the post, working alongside Father Jonathan Brown. It is a job she had never really considered until "I saw a hospital chaplaincy advert at a parish I don't usually go to". A theology graduate from Manchester University, with the extra insurance of a PGCE qualification, she had been considering school chaplaincy yet immediately "felt that advert was the answer to my prayers".
Ever since, she feels the role "has helped my faith beyond measure", explaining: "I can't believe how much my faith has grown. God has worked through me in such amazing ways I can't even describe. I am so lucky to be doing what Christ commanded – to care for the sick, to visit the sick – so how could my faith not grow?"
With hindsight, her university-era membership of the St Vincent de Paul Society helped prepare her for this apostolate. "At Manchester I was involved in the SVP, visiting old people and people with dementia as well as helping out in a soup kitchen. That ignited my love of serving others. I started asking questions about my faith. Although I did the PGCE, I kept looking for something else, praying about it, and it's led to this."
However, Natasha is quick to stress she is a "normal 28-year-old woman", adding: "I love being with my husband, friends and family. I love learning and experiencing new things. And I've got a really good group of young Catholic friends who go to Mass together, go on retreats but also socialise together."
It is this nod to normalcy that is perhaps most telling. As Natasha herself says: "If you open your eyes, God is there in the midst of everything." Hence she finds her working days leavened by "beautiful" little encounters. "The timing of things" is what strikes her most. "Sometimes I will pray before going out to the wards, asking to be sent to whoever needs me most. Then I'll be wandering around, will take a wrong turn and bump into somebody who is crying. We'll then spend about an hour together. God tends to lead me where I'm meant to be."