Pinoy nurse who battled COVID-19 alongside British PM dies

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Pinoy nurse who battled COVID-19 alongside British PM dies
Larni Zuniga, a Filipino nurse who had worked in the UK for over a decade, succumbed to COVID at London’s St. Thomas Hospital last Friday.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — A Filipino nurse who battled the coronavirus alongside British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has died.

Larni Zuniga, 54, battled the disease in intensive care at London’s St. Thomas Hospital, according to a report from British newspaper The Daily Mirror.

The National Health Service nurse was being treated in the same intensive therapy unit as the prime minister, his family confirmed.

Tributes have been paid to Zuniga, who “touched the lives of the people around him.”

Zuniga’s cousin, who is also a nurse, said: “Larni was a true professional, who touched the lives of many.

“He made a tremendous difference to a lot of people’s lives and he was highly respected by patients and colleagues alike.”

Zuniga, who worked at a care home in Bagshot, Surrey, died April 24 after a three-week fight in intensive care at St. Thomas’s, where he was said to be “one of the sickest patients.”

The much-loved health worker had worked in the UK for 12 years and had not seen his family for five years, said The Mirror, quoting The Daily Star.

He was in the process of applying for his wife Edith to join him in the country before he was struck down by COVID-19.

Writing on a GoFundMe charity page, friend Arnold Barrientos said he wanted to raise money to support  Zuniga’s family in memory of “this hero.”

Barrientos said: “Larni had absolutely sacrificed a lot for his family. He worked hard and he battled hard times of not seeing his family just to ensure a comfortable life for them.

“He influenced a lot of people with his godly counselling and loving, warm personality.

“He had so many unfulfilled dreams concerning his family due to this early demise but with the little we can give at least would help to alleviate some of their concerns.”

His daughter Mutya wrote on Facebook : “I just can’t stop crying. It’s too painful to bear.

“You touched the lives of the people around you and made us so proud of you. You are the best dad! Thank you for all the sacrifices for our family,” Mutya said.

Nurse to British elderly

A Filipino nurse has been among those guarding vulnerable groups in the United Kingdom against the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Maureen Moreno-Akhaine, who hails from San Pedro, Laguna, runs a home care service for the elderly in the UK for the past five years.

“I like the adrenaline rush and challenges. But in this time of COVID-19, I’d rather be in the community, keeping our clients as much as possible in their homes rather than risking them to further infections and viruses in the hospital,” Akhaine was quoted by the The Daily Bread blog as saying.

“Most of them have underlying conditions such as diabetes, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer, among others,” Akhaine said.

She worked as an ER nurse for 18 years in a hospital in Milton Keynes with her husband, who is also a nurse.

Akhaine’s domiciliary care currently has 29 clients aged 18 to 75 years, most of them with underlying conditions.

“Thankfully, we haven’t had any client who has contracted COVID-19,” said Akhaine, who worked as a midwife in the Philippines.

“If ever one of our clients shows any symptoms, he or she will be managed by our staff at his or her home unless a ventilator is needed,” she said.

Akhaine herself was recently in self-isolation for three weeks after having COVID-19 symptoms, the article said.

“It was tiring and draining during the first four days due to persistent cough and very itchy throat to a point that I vomited as my body was trying to expel mucus that was, unfortunately, not coming out,” she said.

An estimated 200,000 Filipinos are in the UK, of whom around 21,000 are healthcare workers employed by the National Health Service (NHS) and other private hospitals, according to Philippine Ambassador to London Antonio Lagdameo.

Ten healthcare workers in the UK have tested positive for COVID-19, while four had died, the Department of Foreign Affairs’ latest report said.

British broadcaster Piers Morgan recently praised and thanked the Filipino health workers in the UK who are among those fighting the disease.

“Amazing number of Filipinos working at NHS and unsung heroes like so many. We just want to give them a shout out for helping everybody right now,” Morgan said in his morning show, Good Morning Britain, on April 8.

“Thank you to all the Filipinos who are here, doing these amazing work and to every other immigrant working at NHS,” he said.

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