LONG BEACH (CBSLA) — St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach is calling it a miracle that a beloved ICU nurse, who has spent decades caring for patients, has survived COVID.
The day before Christmas 66-year-old Merlin Pambuan walked out of St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach to cheers of encouragement and clapping from the people who saved her life. . Her daughter Shantell was at her side.
For 8 months, Pambuan, an ICU nurse at the hospital, had been in the fight of her life against Covid-19.
“Honestly I was very, very surprised that there were 100 people waiting for me, and cheering for me,” said Pambuan. ” I said ‘Oh my God,’ and I start crying.”
For 40 years, Pambuan cared for some of the sickest patients in the ICU, until she became a patient herself on April 12 and tested positive for COVID-19.
“Before she walked out the door that night I said, ‘Mom you better promise you got to come back home,’ and she looked at me and I was like, ‘You better promise,” and she said, ‘Yeah, yeah OK,” recounted Shantell.
Pambuan spent the next three months in the ICU. As her condition worsened, she was intubated, had a feeding tube inserted and was put on a ventilator.
Shantell was eventually allowed to be with her mom and never gave up hope.
“Mom has been that champion for me. I have cerebral palsy spastic diplegia I haven’t been able to walk since birth,” Shantell said.
Fellow nurse Pam Fair, who hired and worked closely with Pambaun for decades, said she was there when Pambaun was rushed to the ICU.
“When brought her out to take her to the ICU you almost couldn’t recognize her she looked that bad. It’s hard to explain to people that don’t work in a hospital but they become your second family,” Fair said.
By October, Pambuan was transferred to a rehab center to learn to walk and talk again.
“I’m going to fight this Covid. I’ve been saying it too many times, “Go away. I’m going to fight you,” Pambuan said.
That same month, she celebrated her 66th birthday in the hospital, with her husband & daughter and finally got to go home.
“She’s a miracle,” said Shantell. “We are sitting here next to each other in our living room.
Pambuan was given Remdesivir right when it was beginning to be used as a treatment for Covid-19.
She is still on oxygen 24/7 and is going through hours of intensive therapy sessions. She doesn’t yet know if she will return to her nursing duties.