LONG BEACH, California - A hospital in Southern California has named a room after a Filipino-American nurse, to honor her strength at beating COVID-19 after eight months of hospitalization.

Five months after her co-workers at St. Mary's Medical Center in Long beach applauded her hard-won battle, Intensive Care Unit nurse Merlin Pambuan came back to the hospital in time for National Nurses Week in the US.

She wanted to see the co-workers who took care of her during her illness, and was pleasantly surprised when she found out that St. Mary's dedicated its newly renovated relaxation and reflection room to Pambuan, who had worked at the hospital for about 40 years.

"Having Merlin recover and having her be one of our own was very emotional for all of us. I remember when she left the hospital, we were all so happy,"

"Our chief nursing officer Gloria, once we created this room so our employees could come and relax and get away, came up with the idea, what if we donate the room to Merlin during nursing week," said Carolyn Caldwell, SMMC CEO and hospital president.

The state of the art room was funded by community partners.


For veteran nurse Pambuan, it's important for frontliners to take care of their own wellness as they continue to risk their lives in the fight against COVID-19.


"I want to go back to normal but it's very difficult. I want to go back in the fast lane, but every time I move fast, I get shortness of breath, but I recover right away, I’m trying to tell myself to relax. I take a deep breath. Because COVID patients have anxiety and it's all in the patients that have [gotten past] COVID," she said.

The moment was special for Pambuan and her family. Pambuan was hospitalized in April 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. Instead of spending important moments like Mother's Day and Nurse's Week with her, the nurse's family had to endure 8 months of uncertainty. 


"What was such a difficult week for me last year is now one of the most rewarding and fulfilling weeks this week. It’s allowing me not to focus on the fear of last year but the gratitude this year that mom is recognized for the nurse that she is," said her daughter Shantell Pambuan.

The healing process continues for the Pinay nurse who continues to get assistance from a portable oxygen concentrator.


"I’m okay. I'm getting stronger and I discontinued the physical therapy. Now, I’m doing a pulmonary rehab and I’m doing fine. It’s just my breathing that is a problem," said the 66-year-old nurse. 

As Pambuan recovers mostly from home, the hospital hopes the new relaxation room built by local partners can let her fellow nurses find some peace during what many are hoping is the final stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Filipina American nurse, COVID-19 survivor, health worker, California, COVID-19, Coronavirus, Balitang America, Merlin Pambuan

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