Unknown hero among us

May 18, 2013

Unknown hero among us

By Keishla L. López Domenech

Ever since she was a little girl Sandra Zapata has been associated with hospitals, diseases, doctors, surgeries and treatments.  At age 4 she traveled from her hometown of Mayagüez to New York where she received open heart surgery, due to undisclosed reasons. This operation was able to correct her problem but brought some consequences resulting in additional operations and treatments. Because of these complications and being the youngest in the family she was overprotected by her mother, father, brother, and her two sisters. Despite this Zapata has always seen herself as an independent spirit.

She is 52 years old, has green eyes, short brown hair; she is approximately 5 feet and 3 inches in height and fair complexion. Most of the time wears a long or short sleeved blouse and trousers covering most of her body.

Sandra Zapata by Keishla López

Sandra Zapata by Keishla López

As a child she loved to read, things relating to environmental protection and animals. She wanted to be a veterinarian because of her love for them, but because it was required to have her application documents one year prior to applying in college she instead decided on nursing school. During this time she fell in love with nursing and d

ecided this was her new passion.

The daughter of an electrical engineer and a housewife she continued her studies with their help and the help of the rest of her family. During the course of her studies she earned a Bachelor’s in nursing, to Master’s degrees also in nursing, and a Doctorate in Thanatology along with the opportunity to save lives.

During her time as a nursing student and later as a nurse she learned and applied ways to do just that. She saved lives not only at the hospital she worked at but also in different places outside of work. She would sometimes find people hurt on her way to work, during her vacation time and even right in front of her house where she would find herself obligated to help those in need. These included different situations ranging from someone choking with a piece of food to car accidents where people were in serious condition.

One Father’s day she decided to go to a river in San Sebastian with her husband and son to celebrate. While in the river they decided to place a rope on a tree branch where people would climb the rope and swing themselves with it and jump to the river. A young woman climbed the rope, jumped and fell into rocks seriously hurting her body. “I had to step in and help her. The paramedics had arrived but they did not know how to properly place her in the stretcher.” said Zapata.

Her husband and son let her

know right away when an emergency occurs so she can help. Sometimes in the middle of situations her husband starts yelling “Let her pass, she is a nurse. She can help.” He sometimes does not even give her time to think or prepare herself mentally. Zapata leaves what she is doing in order the help the person in need. “It’s almost automatic” says Zapata referring to the way he immediately reacts.

After know the bitter taste left in her after her father’s death two months before graduating from nursing and later going through her brother’s death and knowing the feeling of sadness of losing loved ones she decided to devote herself to studying Thanatology.

Thanatology is specialized science that studies death and the process of dying as defined by the Light and Truth Group. Zapata not only helps people as nurse but also as a Thanatologist. “For me, be

ing a Thanatologist is being able to share with people their death, trying to bring dignity to their lives instead of moments of terror, loneliness and sadness.” She also gives lectures to people about death. Her son helps her with this and preparing the presentations for her.

Due to physical exhaustion from overworking at the hospital she had to leave and pursue a full-time teaching career at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM). She provides nursing classes to the new generation of professionals in this area. Through the courses offered by the university she is able to go back in the clinical area at the hospital and take her students to practice in real time scenarios. She continues to help others while preparing future nurses to take on her role and help those in need in her place.

“Sandra Zapata is the best teacher of the Department of Nursing and is also a great human being” said Jesus Vega a nursing student at UPRM.

Sandra Zapata with her students at in the UPRM.

Sandra Zapata with her students at in the UPRM.

Part of Sandra Zapata’s daily life includes doing chores around her home, playing her pet dog and cat, going to the beach and snorkeling, scuba diving, going shopping and watching television series such as Glee, The Voice, Bones among other programs, going out with her friends and enjoying a cool frappe.

When not performing these activities Sandra Zapata can usually be found giving nursing classes to her students or taking them for practice sessions at the hospital making way for the new generation of nurses to take on the responsibilities of helping those in need, just like she did before them. “Nursing is an emotionally fulfilling and rewarding career” said Discover Nursing.


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