Boholana nurse dies of COVID-19 in UK
CANDIJAY, Bohol – “I will be back.”
This was the promise made by Estrella Bersamen-Catalan to her family while she was taken to the hospital due to back pains a few weeks ago.
But the 52-year-old nurse from Bohol never had the chance to fulfill her vow.
Last Feb. 5, Catalan succumbed to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in the United Kingdom, where she worked for almost two decades as a staff nurse of the emergency department.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said her mother Pacita Timario-Bersamen of her daughter’s death.
“She was a very good daughter and I’m proud of her,” said Pacita of Estrella, her second child.
Pacita, 80, lost her husband when Estrella and her brother Josue were teenagers.
Her firstborn Josue also died for reasons she did not divulge.
Estrella finished her nursing studies at the University of Bohol in 1989.
She worked in a hospital in Pasay City and, later, in the Middle East, where she met her husband, Engr. Melvin Catalan, who hailed from La Carlota City, Negros Oriental.
They have three sons: Christian John, Vincent, and Josh. Vincent died two years ago.
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United Kingdom, Estrella was among the brave nurses who would attend to the coronavirus patients.
“Estrella would assist the COVID-19 patients. She was not scared unlike other nurses,” said Pacita.
But the Boholana nurse caught the virus and was brought to the hospital where she worked on Dec. 27, 2020.
Still, Pacita was optimistic that Estrella would pull through because of her daughter’s assurance that she would be okay.
Even while in the hospital, Estrella would call her mother to update Pacita of her condition. If Estrella could not call, her husband or either of her sons would make the call to Bohol.
“Nay, don’t worry. I’m going to be ok. All my medical expenses are free,” Pacita quoted Estrella as telling her during their phone conversation in January.
Instead, she would constantly remind her mother to keep herself safe from COVID-19 by following the health protocols.
It was the last time Pacita heard her daughter’s voice.
Last week, Pacita’s grandson told her over the phone that Estrella passed away on Feb. 5.
Her husband Melvin and sons John and Josh joined colleagues in the snow outside the hospital for a moment of silence.
In a statement posted on the hospital website, Sam Higginson, NNUH chief executive, described Estrella as a “wonderful person, a caring and conscientious nurse, who loved to teach and mentor students.”
“She will be terribly missed. We will formulate a fitting memorial to Estrella in collaboration with her family, friends, and colleagues,” Higginson said.
David White, NNUH chairman, expressed his condolences to Estrella’s family.
“Every COVID-19 death is a tragedy and to lose one of our own is even more poignant. Our thoughts are with her,” he said.
On March 19, 2020, Estrella wrote on her Facebook page: “I join the war against this virus COVID-19, along with my colleagues as a front-liner, a noble profession that I had chosen since I was young.”
“I am obliged to work and face reality. My only weapon is that I am a believer. Prayer is my key to survive.”
“I sincerely hope and pray for the safety of my colleagues, friends, family, relatives around the world and for those who are infected/affected, may God heal them spiritually and God bless us all”.
For her colleagues, Estrella was the most caring, conscientious, and hardworking person a department could ask for.
“She puts the needs of others first before her own. Her selflessness and dedication carried on even when she was on her hospital bed. She still thought and talked about when she could go back to work to help patients and colleagues throughout this pandemic,” they said.
While Estrella’s colleagues, friends, and family paid tribute to her in the UK, Pacita lit a candle in a small altar inside their house in Barangay Tugas in Candijay town in honor of her daughter.
Pacita urged other people to follow the health protocols as she described how COVID-19 “ravaged” her family.
“I hope Estrella’s death would help raise awareness about the virus,” she said.
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