Free Remembering the nursing staff who have died
Colleagues and families pay tribute to dedicated professionals who have lost their lives in the pandemic
The practice nurse who had worked in the NHS for nearly half a century; the ‘old-school’ nurse; the ‘go-to’ healthcare assistant who knew how to get things done. These are just some of the members of the nursing family who have lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nursing Standard. 35, 5, 14-17. doi: 10.7748/ns.35.5.14.s10
Published: 29 April 2020
Colleagues, friends and loved ones have paid tribute to their dedication, their professionalism and passion for their roles.
Here, we remember many of those who have lost their lives.
Healthcare assistant (HCA) Ruben Munoz, who had worked at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust since 2011, died on 17 April.
Trust chief executive Michael Wilson said: ‘Ruben was a highly respected and talented nursing assistant who showed enormous dedication to caring for his patients every time he walked through our doors.’
Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong
Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, who was pregnant, worked as a nurse on a general ward at Luton and Dunstable University Hospital in Bedfordshire for five years.
She died on 12 April after her baby was delivered by caesarean section. The baby, a girl, is doing well, the hospital said in a statement.
Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chief executive David Carter said: ‘Mary was a highly valued and loved member of our team, a fantastic nurse and a great example of what we stand for in this trust.’
Marie Curie nurse Barbara Sage, who had 40 years’ experience in palliative care, died on 12 April.
Marie Curie chief executive Matthew Reed said he had spoken to Ms Sage’s family, including her daughter, Donna, about the pain of being unable to say goodbye in person.
‘Donna told me how her mother had spent all her life as a palliative care nurse, holding the hands of dying people and hugging their loved ones,’ he said. ‘She told me how she and the rest of the family couldn’t hold Barbara’s hand as she was dying. They couldn’t hug her goodbye.’
He added that everyone who worked with Ms Sage could attest to her professionalism and commitment to patients.
A mental health nurse, Gladys Mujajati was described as a much-loved member of the Derby City Community Mental Health Team.
She had an underlying health condition and had stepped away from work in the weeks before her death.
Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Ifti Majid said: ‘Gladys was known to be a warm and caring individual, always looking out for her patients and colleagues, showing true compassion and empathy.’
HCA Jenelyn Carter worked on the admissions ward at Morriston Hospital, Swansea and was well loved by all her colleagues and patients, Swansea Bay University Health Board said.
Morriston Hospital’s nurse director, Mark Madams, said: ‘Jenelyn would go the extra mile for anyone, and was a lovely caring person inside and out, with a heart of gold.’
Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust confirmed that staff nurse Michael Allieu, described as a key member of the team in the acute care unit, died on 18 April at Homerton Hospital in London.
Trust chief executive Tracey Fletcher said: ‘Michael was a vibrant, larger-than-life character on our acute care unit, and was well known and very well liked throughout the hospital.’
Known as ‘Des’ to her colleagues, HCA Lourdes Campbell worked at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust for nearly 13 years, and will be remembered as a ‘diligent and compassionate’ colleague.
Trust chief executive Fiona Noden added: ‘This is a terrible and poignant reminder of the situation staff are facing every day to help others… their continued courage and commitment to duty is inspirational and a comfort to us all in these difficult times.’
HCA Maureen Ellington died on 12 April.
Ms Ellington, who was in her early 60s, had worked for the NHS for more than 25 years.
Her manager at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, Suzanne Moss, said: ‘Maureen was a kindhearted, compassionate and caring person and she brought all these attributes into her ward practice, which made her a highly valued member of the team.’
Rahima Bibi Sidhanee
Originally from Trinidad, Rahima Bibi Sidhanee worked at Grennell Lodge nursing home in London for more than 30 years before her death on 12 April.
She trained at London’s Edgware General Hospital in the 1970s, and was a registered nurse and former midwife with nearly 50 years’ experience.
In a tribute, Danny Shamtally, the director of Care Unlimited, which operates Grennell Lodge, said: ‘Rahima loved nursing and the people she cared for, their happiness was of great importance to her and she would go above and beyond in her care.’
Filipino nurse Leilani Medel, who lived in south Wales, had worked as an agency nurse at hospitals in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board.
Rhian Eccleshare, director of nursing at Cardiff-based Hoop Recruitment, said: ‘The nursing profession has lost a warm-natured and beautiful nurse who cared for so many vulnerable people during her nursing career. Her absence will be felt and she will be missed.’
Josiane Zauma Ebonja Ekoli
An agency nurse at Harrogate District Hospital in North Yorkshire, Josiane Zauma Ebonja Ekoli died in hospital on 13 April.
Jill Foster, chief nurse at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, said Ms Ekoli, known as Josie, was a ‘much-valued’ member of staff.
Her daughter Naomie said: ‘It meant everything to be a nurse. She’s been doing it for as long as I remember – more than 30 years.’
Nurse Melujean Ballesteros, who was originally from the Philippines, died at St Mary’s Hospital in London – the same hospital where she had worked as a nurse for nearly 20 years – on 12 April.
Speaking to PA news agency, her son Rainier said: ‘My mum is a dedicated and very caring nurse. She loved her work.’
A spokesperson for Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs St Mary’s Hospital, said: ‘Melujean was well known across the hospital for her kindness and compassion.
‘She made a big impact on the lives of her colleagues as well as her patients. She will be greatly missed.’
Described by colleagues as ‘beautiful and kind-hearted’, Donna Campbell was a healthcare support worker at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff. She died at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff on 10 April.
A statement issued by the Velindre Cancer Centre said: ‘We will remember Donna as a hardworking member of our nursing team who was proud to work for the NHS. She had a beaming smile and an incredible laugh; Donna was human sunshine.
‘She was always supportive of friends and colleagues alike and had a passionate sense of fairness and equality.’
The death of Gareth Roberts, who became a nurse in the 1980s, was confirmed by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board on 11 April.
Mr Roberts had retired in 2014 but rejoined the board’s bank in 2015. ‘Gareth was well known by everyone and was extremely popular and well-liked, always greeting everyone with, “Hello cariad” when he saw them,’ the board said in a statement.
‘Staff say he was such a kind and helpful person, and they learned so much from him. He had a lovely way with relatives and always offered the caring personal side.’
A matron for older adult mental health services in Hillingdon, London, Sara Trollope, 51, died at Watford General Hospital on 10 April.
Helen Willetts, a director of nursing at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘Sara guided many, many nurses – myself included – to a better understanding of how to care for older adults with mental health problems and dementia.
‘We have lost a wonderful advocate for nursing older people.’
Julie Omar, 52, died at home on 10 April while self-isolating with COVID-19 symptoms.
The trauma and orthopaedics nurse worked at the Alexandra Hospital in Worcestershire.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust chief executive Matthew Hopkins said: ‘Julie was a dedicated and highly experienced trauma and orthopaedics nurse. I know she will be sadly missed by many.’
Amor Gatinao, a continuing healthcare assessor for North West London Collaboration of Clinical Commissioning Groups, died on 10 April.
Jo Ohlson, accountable officer for the eight north west London clinical commissioning groups, said Ms Gatinao would be hugely missed by her colleagues.
Her family said she was an exceptional nurse who took pride in her work, adding: ‘The NHS meant more than work for our mum. Her passion for her job was greatly affected by the team that mentored, guided and supported her.’
Nurse Aimee O’Rourke, 39, died at the hospital where she worked, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, on 9 April.
Julie Gammon, ward manager on the acute medical unit where Ms O’Rourke worked, said her team were devastated by the loss.
‘Nursing was something she had always wanted to do, although she came to it relatively late after raising her girls.
‘She was really growing and developing in her skills and confidence and I know she would have gone on to have a great career.’
Care home nurse Elsie Sazuze died on 8 April at Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham.
She worked for Wolverhampton-based agency Totally Care. Originally from Malawi, she trained and had worked at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton.
Her husband Ken, who is himself training to be a nurse, told the BBC she was dedicated to helping people.
Nurse Leilani Dayrit, who worked at the Hospital of St Cross in Rugby, Warwickshire, died on 7 April.
Her daughter Mary Dayrit described her mother, who was born in the Philippines, as a compassionate woman who always put other people’s happiness and well-being before her own. ‘She was a hard-working and dedicated nurse who loved to look after others and because of this she was known as the “mother figure” to numerous family friends,’ she wrote on a GoFundMe fundraising page.
‘She was an optimist who kept looking on the bright side of things and encouraged everyone to do the same.’
Donald Suelto, a 51-year-old nurse who worked at Hammersmith Hospital in London, died at his home on 7 April.
One of Mr Suelto’s friends, Alejandro Fernandez, paid tribute to him on Facebook, calling him ‘an enthusiastic nurse, full of life, (who) loved his NHS job and was a spirited friend with a loving heart.’
Mr Suelto, originally from the Philippines, had been registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council since 2003.
RCN London regional director Lisa Elliott said: ‘Donald was one of the many international nurses who came to the capital and took fantastic care of Londoners.
‘Our community, and his patients, will be eternally grateful for the care, compassion and dedication he showed every day.’
Alice Kit Tak Ong
Practice nurse Alice Kit Tak Ong, 70, worked for practices in the Barnet area of London. She died on 7 April after 44 years working in the NHS.
Her daughter Melissa Ong said her mother had loved the NHS, and called on people to value it as she had done.
‘My mother came here from Hong Kong to work for the NHS because she believed it was the best in the world,’ she said.
‘You see people clapping on the streets, but it shouldn’t take something like this to bring the nation together to be thankful.
‘We should value healthcare workers in good times and bad times.’
Healthcare support worker Janice Graham from NHS Greater Glasgow was the first NHS worker in Scotland to die as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership chief officer Louise Long said Ms Graham, who died on 6 April, was a valued member of the district nursing and evening services team and had brought kindness and compassion to patients and colleagues.
‘Her bright and engaging personality and razor-sharp wit will be sorely missed,’ she added.
Scotland’s deputy chief nursing officer Diane Murray said on Twitter: ‘Our deepest sympathies are with Janice Graham’s family at this very sad time. We thank her for her many years of service.’
HCA Glen Corbin, 59, had worked at the Park Royal Centre for Mental Health in Harlesden, London, for more than 25 years.
Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust announced his death on 4 April.
Trust chief executive Claire Murdoch described Mr Corbin as part of the ‘backbone’ of the team.
‘He was the go-to person who knew everything about the ward and how to get things done,’ she said.
‘Glen was a much loved colleague and will be sorely missed.’
Formerly a nurse on the children’s cancer unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, Rebecca Mack worked more recently for NHS 111.
Speaking to Nursing Standard, her friend Sarah Bredin-Kemp said Ms Mack had been self-isolating at home when her symptoms worsened. She died on 5 April.
Ms Bredin-Kemp described her friend as an incredible nurse.
‘It is really special and comforting that so many people are now coming forward to say Becca had looked after their son or daughter at the worst time of their life,’ she said.
Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool said staff nurse Liz Glanister died on 3 April.
Her family described the loss as ‘simply beyond words’.
‘We would like to thank all of the staff at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital who did an amazing job of looking after Liz in her final days,’ her family said.
‘We would also like to thank her NHS family at Aintree University Hospital, whom she loved so much.
‘There are so many heroes out there, just like Liz, who are all putting their lives in danger to help save ours, so please help them to be the best they can be and stay inside.’
HCA John Alagos worked for West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and died on 3 April.
A tribute to the 23-year-old on a fundraising website by Christine Pasno said: ‘He was one of the staff who selflessly helped to look after patients with COVID-19.
‘He was a very kind, funny and hard-working person. He was a good son. He continually supported his mum, dad and two siblings.
HCA Thomas Harvey, a 57-year-old father of seven, worked at Goodmayes Hospital in Ilford, Essex.
He died at home on 29 March after feeling unwell for several days.
Oliver Shanley, chief executive of the North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT), said: ‘Thomas was a long-standing, dedicated member of our intermediate care team. This is a huge loss to both NELFT and the wider NHS.’
Nurse Areema Nasreen died on 2 April at Walsall Manor Hospital in the West Midlands, where she had worked for 16 years.
She started working at the hospital as a housekeeper, and also got jobs there for her two younger sisters. She became an HCA, but had dreams of being a nurse, and gained her nursing degree in January 2019.
Speaking to Victoria Derbyshire on the BBC News Channel, her sister Kazeema Afzal, herself an HCA, said: ‘We’ve lost an amazing nurse, but also an amazing person.’
She said her sister fell ill soon after finishing a 12-hour shift, having chosen to go in and help colleagues when she was supposed to be on annual leave.