At 5:37 p.m., April 11, Faye Marie Palafox, head nurse with the Hospital Infection Control unit at Philippine General Hospital (PGH), posted on her Facebook: “Finally! Home sweet home!”
That afternoon, she had just finished a grueling, 14-day duty with her front-line team attending to new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients at PGH. She was assigned to the COVID-19 wing.
Six days later, her niece Ericka Palafox found Faye unconscious in her room. Faye’s pulse was weak, said Ericka. Faye was dead on arrival in a Mandaluyong hospital. Efforts to revive her failed. She was 46.
Her death certificate, according to Ericka, said Faye succumbed to respiratory failure and diabetes mellitus type 2. Faye’s blood sugar spiked to 300, added Ericka.
“Everything happened so fast,” Faye’s uncle, architect Felino “Jun” Palafox, told Lifestyle, adding that Faye was tested for COVID-19 only after her death, before she was cremated.
Dr. Jorge Ignacio, chief of the PGH Cancer Institute, who had worked with Faye, confirmed that she was COVID-19-positive. “She got it while on duty.”
Her health had also been compromised with comorbidities, including hypertension.
“In our chat before her COVID shift, she told me she was afraid. She feared how the current situation would affect her health,” recounted Kenneth Palafox, the older of Faye’s two brothers (the other is Eric).
But Ericka quoted Faye: “Hindi ako pwedeng mag-back out as leader ng team ko. May moral responsibility at obligation ako sa staff and family ko. I have to be strong and brave for them.”
Faye was the daughter of lawyer Denny and Tessie Palafox, both deceased. “Faye had no family of her own, no children, but she supported her nephews, nieces. She was also close to my own children,” said architect Palafox.
Her brother Kenneth, who lives in Australia, recalled: “Faye has always been a fighter. She fought pneumonia when she was born. When we were kids, she wouldn’t let us, her older brothers, get away with teasing her. We had placemats of our favorite superheroes. Hers was Wonder Woman. She became a nurse to serve others. She became Wonder Woman.”
One of the brightest
A graduate of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Nursing batch ’95, Faye went to elementary and high school at Colegio San Agustin (CSA).
Lei Bautista-Lo, a schoolmate at CSA and UP Manila, said of Faye: “She was one of the brightest in our class, always in the Top 10. Very quiet, intelligent and diligent with her work. Kindhearted and very caring. No wonder she became a head nurse at PGH since she was really very caring and loving of other people.”
Garry Garcia, another CSA schoolmate, said that she radiated happiness and calmness. “I think that’s why she took up nursing. If you are sick, you want her to be there with you. She would be the face you’d want to see, who would take care of you.”
One of her CSA teachers, Fe Maximo, said: “She was quiet, a pretty girl, always smiling, and wrote good English compositions. She shared her experiences and feelings on Facebook… She was heartbroken when she lost her parents, her mother only recently. She was in despair.”
Doctor Ignacio had fond memories of Faye: “We became close about three years ago. She was very genial, she called me ninong. “She would prepare the charts of my patients when she saw me heading to the nurse station. She would hand them over to me when I got there. She was very easy to get along with. Ever reliable, good to her superiors and her own staff, as she was head nurse of her station. She always had a ready smile even if it meant staying a couple of hours more beyond her duty. I will surely miss her.” INQ