BY SI M. PHAM, MD

A Tribute to Aracelli (Celi) Buendia Ilagan, RN, BSN, ARNP.

On March 27, 2020, Aracelli (Celi) Buendia Ilagan, RN, BSN, ARNP, a longtime nurse-in-charge of the surgical intensive care unit (SICU) at Jackson Memorial Hospital (JMH) in Miami, Florida succumbed to the COVID-19, a disease caused by SARS-CoV2 virus that she caught while fulfilling her duty as a nurse.

Her death was quick, sudden and tragic, and had left a void among many of us: family, friends, and colleagues.

I had the privilege to know and work with the SICU team at JMH for 15 years, a highlight of my career. I was recruited to the University of Miami in 1998 to lead the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital Heart and Lung Transplant Program. Celi was the nurse in charge of JMH SICU, the unit where we cared for all our heart, lung transplant recipients and all other surgical patients who required intensive care. Over the ensuing 15 years our physician team worked side by side with the nursing staff (lead by Celi) in that unit.

Together we provided the care for the sickest of the sick, for patients with heart, lung transplants, combined heart and lung transplants, combined organ transplants, for patients without their native hearts and for those with two hearts; for patients with left ventricular assist device, biventricular assist devices, with extra-corporal life support (ECMO), with aortic dissection with acute cardiogenic shocks.

Celi had trained, mentored her nursing staff to care for these patients. No patient was too sick and no one was special. We took care of all, regardless their races, sex, sexual orientation or social status. All received the same super quality of care. The skills and dedications of the JMH SICU nurses were unsurpassed. It was not a surprise to us when Healthgrade ranked the UM/JMH heart transplant the best (out of 116 program) in the US for its superior survival statistics.

In life we often cross paths with many people however only a few left a mark in our heart that we would never forget. Celi, you were one of those few individuals who had left an indelible mark in the hearts of your family, friends, colleagues and the entire SICU family at Jackson Memorial Hospital. You had left us physically but you live forever in our hearts. Your legacy will continue.

Rest in Peace my friend.

Photo taken from the Facebook of Sue McColm.