Co-workers mourn Filipina nurses’ deaths

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
The national nurse’s week now has a new meaning for the boss of Neriza Fojas and Michelle Estrera, the two Fresno nurses who died in the northern Califonia limousine fire over the weekend.

“This is recognition of nurses’ week and we honor our nurses for their deep commitment to healing others and saving lives. During this week our community regional family will also honor the lives and memories of Neriza and Michelle,” said Karen Buckley, chief nursing officer of Community Regional Medical Center.

“We’re all very sad about these tragic events that happened to all the nurses in the accident and to our special two employees, Neriza and Michelle,” she added.

Estrera and Fojas were friends, who were originally based in Oakland. Estrera moved to Fresno four years ago and Fojas followed a year after.

According to Buckley, they were very excited when the nurses from Oakland transferred to Fresno because they were very good nurses, very skilled and very detail- oriented.

The hospital has been closed off to media as staffers cope with the loss of two beloved coworkers. Buckley says counselors have been available for the staff, especially to those close to Fojas and nearly joined them for her ill-fated Bay Area bachelorette party.

“There were a lot more nurses who had wanted to go to the bridal shower but we weren’t able to let them all go because we still had patients they needed to take care of so there were some nurses that weren’t able to go. It’s kind of that survivor guilt,” said Buckley.

While Fire Marshal codes prohibit the hospital from setting up any physical memorial for the two nurses, Buckley said they will hold a private memorial service later this week.

Joyce Hopper, who manages the Angry Asian Food and Retail, was able to speak to Estrera, a regular customer, days before her death.

Estrera, who was Fojas’ maid of honor, cancelled the plane ticket she brought from Hopper as one of their Northern California friends had coordinated the travel arrangements to the Philippines for Fojas’ wedding.

“Actually her face still registers in my mind right now and it’s really so sudden. The last time I saw her, she was very much alive and when somebody called about what happened yesterday I was really trembling. I even cried,” said Hopper.

While no one answered at the Fresno home of Estrera, CNN has reported that the family of Fojas had moved her belongings, including her dog, out of her Fresno apartment on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Philippine consulate in San Francisco has been in contact with the families of the nine victims involved in the deadly fire. They are monitoring the progress of 4 survivors as well as the investigation.

Find more like this: Nursing Stories

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