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Veteran nurse dies from the coronavirus a week before she was supposed to retire

Jhulan Banago holds a picture of his late mother, Celia Yap-Banago, during a candlelight ceremony.

Views from the Edge

A week before she was supposed to retire, a 40-year veteran nurse died after caring for coronavirus patients.

Celia Yap Banago, 69, a longtime RN who died April 21 of COVID-19 after caring for an infected patient at the Research Medical Center in Kansas City. She contracted the virus several weeks ago and had been recovering at home while under the care of her personal physician,” a hospital statement said. She seemed to be recovering and wanted to return to work but she passed away “peacefully” on April 21, said one of her sons.

Family, friends and coworkers held a candlelight vigil April 23 in the hospital parking lot to honor Banago. Wearing facemasks, they sang a muffled version of “Amazing Grace.”

“She was a great mom, I can’t stress that enough. From all my friends reaching out to me, the one thing they all say — even though most of them have never met her — is that based on your character, seeing you, your brother, how you guys interact with other people, she had to be a very strong, independent woman, an amazing woman at that based on what she does and how she lives her life,” said her son Josh Banago, 26.

Donning scrubs for 40 years and caring for people amid a global pandemic, “now we know she is a hero,” Yap-Banago’s family earlier wrote in a statement to local media.

Yap-Banago was one of many RNs at the hospital who have expressed concern over inadequate COVID-19 preparation at RMC.
Those concerns include insufficient supplies of the optimal personal protective equipment for RNs and other health care workers, delays in notifying nurses of being exposed to a suspected infected patients and staff and expected to continue reporting to work when exposed.

RN Charlene Carter says that she and Yap-Banago in late March treated a patient who was later found to have COVID-19. She says they treated the patient without N95 masks or any of the specialized protective equipment typically used when treating COVID-19 patients in intensive care units and other facilities.

“Celia was an amazing nurse that dedicated her service for countless years at Research and a dear friend to all of us,” said RMC nurse Charlene Carter. “I feel that I can speak for many nurses when I say that the loss of one of our dear fallen soldiers on the front line of this pandemic is more than devastating, it is a wake-up call.”

Across the US, dozens of RNs have died from COVID-19. Thousands more have been infected. Yap-Banago was the sixth Filipino nurse to die from the deadly virus known to Views From the Edge. As of this Tuesday morning, there are over 1-million cases of coronavirus resulting in almost 57,000 deaths. By 2014, 27 US healthcare workers have died. Pascaline Muhindura, a nurse and union representative who has been treating COVID-19 patients at RMC, says despite Yap-Banago’s death, there have been no significant improvements in the availability of safety supplies in recent weeks.

“We honor the life and career of Celia who gave so much of herself for her patients,” said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, a Filipino American RN. “No nurse, no health care worker, should have to put their lives, their health, and their safety at risk for the failure of hospitals and our elected leaders to provide the protection they need to safely care for patients.”

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