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Meet the Pinay Nurse Who Saved 35 Babies From PGH Fire

Kathrina Bianca Macababbad was scared — but she also had her wits about her!

It’s a decision we hope we never have to make in our lifetime: In the event of a fire, whom do we save? For Nurse Kathrina Bianca Macababbad, who was on duty when the third floor of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) caught fire on the evening of May 15, the choice was simple.

Nurse Kath, who was at PGH’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on the fourth floor giving her infant patients (“baby loves,” she calls them) a bath, was instrumental in helping save all 35 of the babies in the NICU— half of them dependent on oxygen and ventilators.

The nurse even had the presence of mind to put nametags on the babies, so as to avoid a “Mara Clara incident,” she said, referring to the popular baby-switching teleserye.

Here are four things to know about this nurse-turned-hero. (Read: PGH Is Calling for Donations – Here’s How You Can Help!)

A baby who underwent heart surgery was one of the infants evacuated during the fire at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila on early Sunday morning. (Photo from Heart Response/Fire and Rescue Alert Responders/Philippine Star Facebook)

#1. Nurse Kath Had Always Wanted to Be in Medicine

The daughter of a stay-at-home mom and dad who’s an Overseas Filipino Worker based in Dubai, Kath dreamed of becoming a doctor someday. Financial constraints led her to pursue a similar and just as rewarding career. 

“Nurses work hand in hand all the time with doctors. They are present within the patient’s reach and directly provide care,” she said in an interview. “Eventually I realized that I was made for this. This is my purpose in this beautiful thing called life.”

Nurse Kath, who graduated from nursing from the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila in 2013, passed the board examination in the same year.

#2: She Admitted She Was Scared While Saving the Babies From the Fire

In a TV interview, Nurse Kath admitted that she was gripped with fear while helping save the babies. (Read: 5 Filipino nurses who’ll inspire you to stay strong and compassionate amid COVID-19 crisis)

Pero kung ‘yung takot ay papairalin, wala pong mangyayari. Sino po ang tutulong sa mga babies na hindi nila kayang alagaan sarili nila?” she said. “Kaya po I needed to overcome that fear, I needed to wear that very high confidence and very high courage para maligtas po namin sila.”

That confidence and courage pushed her to go back to the burning building five more times, and even with the power shut down. 

Nurses of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) attend to newborn babies who are going to be transferred to a nearby hospital after a fire incident on the third floor of the PGH’s central block on Sunday morning. (Photos courtesy of the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office/Philippine Star Facebook)

#3: A Quick Thinker, Nurse Kath Improvised (A Lot!) To Save the Babies

Aside from putting name tags on the babies to ensure proper identification, Nurse Kath rescued as many infants as she could by placing some of them in the big pockets of her vest. (Read: This Group of Pinoy Nurses in the UK Just Earned a National Award)

Kasya po ang baby,” she said. “Dun po pwede ilagay ang baby para marami po madala.” She also grabbed a lot of supplies on her way down. “Nakapag shopping rin ako ng emergency equipment (ambubag, oxygen cannula, IV fluids, syringes), pinag kasya ko lahat sa ecobag na bitbit ko,” she added.

#4: She Lauded Other PGH Staff Who Also Helped During the Fire

Despite having gone viral thanks to her Facebook post on the fire, Nurse Kath is “just a portion of a whole,” a team player who gives credit where credit is due.

Sobrang nakaka proud talaga ‘yung buong team namin noong nagkasunog sa PGH,” she wrote in a Facebook post dated May 20. “Lahat ay may kanya kanyang tungkulin na ginampanan para mailigtas at maprotektahan ang mga pasyente naming babies. May kanya kanyang kwento ng kabayanihan na talaga namang kapupulutan ng inspirasyon! Maraming maraming salamat sa lahat! Napaka galing po ninyo!”

Walang imposible basta’t may teamwork!” she ended. “To God be all the glory!”

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