‘Dedicated to her work’: Pinay nurse dies of COVID-19 in SoCal

Miguel (center) is survived by her husband Dodjie and sons Ken and Kyle.  | Photo courtesy of Ken Miguel

A Filipina mother of two sons from Whittier, California has died from COVID-19 after working on the frontlines as a licensed vocational nurse.

Rowena “Wendy” Miguel, 53, died on January 10, three weeks after testing positive for COVID-19.

She was employed at Kindred Hospital in La Mirada, California for nearly five years, and worked a second job, also as an LVN, at nearby Imperial Convalescent Hospital.

“She was dedicated to her work and really took care of her patients. During a ceremony for her, her co-workers remembered how she was a hard worker and how she was precise about everything,” her 22-year-old son, Ken Miguel, told the Asian Journal.

Miguel, who was from Candelaria, Philippines, began her nursing career in her home country.

“This was my mom’s way to pay my grandma back for the hard work she’s done. That’s why she became a nurse because it was a gateway to a good life,” Ken said.

She and her family moved to Southern California in 2006 and she landed her first job as an LVN two years later at La Habra Convalescent Hospital, where she worked before joining Kindred Hospital.

Two weeks before Christmas, Miguel experienced symptoms, such as chills and a high fever, before she was taken to Kaiser Permanente in Downey, where she was hooked up to an oxygen machine to help with breathing. She later tested positive for COVID-19.

Rowena “Wendy” Miguel is remembered for her dedication to the nursing field. | Photo courtesy of Ken Miguel

Miguel was discharged from the hospital and recuperated from home for the next week, while her family kept their distance, until the evening of December 23 when she had an accident in the bathroom and couldn’t stand up.

Her husband Dodjie and son Ken carried her into the car and brought her back to the hospital, where she was admitted to the intensive care unit and was hooked up to a ventilator. She was later transferred to Kaiser Permanente in Woodland Hills and showed signs of improvement.

Despite their mother not being home for Christmas, the family still opened presents and kept in touch with her through FaceTime each day she was in the hospital.

“It was kind of weird, but it was the best thing that we could do. She was there in spirit even though she was at the hospital,” Ken said.

After the holiday, Ken and his father, Dodjie, started experiencing symptoms like the loss of taste and smell and fatigue. They tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered in about 10 days.

On the morning of January 8, they were notified that Miguel had gone into cardiac arrest.

Her family rushed to the hospital, which is over an hour drive from their house in Whittier, to be by her side.

“We basically had two choices. It was try to revive her at risk of hurting her even more or let her pass away,” Ken recounted, pushing for his mom to be revived. “But [the doctor] told us that even if my mom were to recover from this, and the chances would be super low, she would be in a vegetative state.”

Two days later, in the early morning of January 10, the family received a call that Miguel had died.

The family plans on cremating her. Ken set up a GoFundMe page to help the family with expenses.

“It would really help me support my family and it would really help to pay off my mom’s debts,” he said.

Miguel worked two jobs and rarely had days off, but whenever she had free time, she would study to be a registered nurse. She is also remembered for her love of shopping and sewing clothes.

“During our last conversation before she passed away, she said, ‘Study hard and become a nurse.’ I’ve latched onto how caring she is and I’m going to hold onto that forever,” Ken said.

In addition to her husband and eldest son, Miguel leaves behind a 14-year-old son named Kyle.

Though vaccinations against COVID-19 are a step toward curbing the pandemic, the grim toll of over 500,000 deaths in the United States serves as a reminder that it is not over.

“When the pandemic first started, I didn’t think it was going to personally affect me the way that it did,” Ken said. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned is [to] always cherish your loved ones because you don’t what’s going to happen.”

Editor’s note: The Asian Journal is working to document those of Filipino descent who have lost their lives because of the coronavirus in the United States. If you know of someone or would like to offer a remembrance of someone who has died of COVID-19, please tell us about them by emailing [email protected] with the subject line “Remembering Lives Lost.”

Christina M. Oriel

Christina M. Oriel is an award-winning editor and communications strategist based in Los Angeles with experience in content, strategy and branding for media ecosystems, inclusive fintech startups, small businesses and direct-to-consumer products.

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