Life Story: Perlita Depakakibo, RN, BSN

August 7, 2019

The 70’s was an era in American history that saw government tumult, the end of a controversial war, an awakening of environmental conservation, and 8-track tapes. For Perlita Depakakibo, it was a decade filled with promise and excitement; and the time had come for her to immigrate to the United States.

Born in the Philippines, Perlita always knew she’d become a nurse. But it wasn’t until she was a student nurse that she discovered it was truly her passion. Perlita’s mother was on a ventilator during that time, and it was up to Perlita and her sister, Erlinda, a medical student, to take 24-hour care of their mom. The hard and sometimes unpleasant work of having to suction the ventilator, keep her clean and dry, and reposition her to avoid bedsores, didn’t feel like a burden to Perlita. Instead, it instilled in her a deep compassion for those who cannot help themselves.

As a young girl, Perlita had already seen the effects of colon cancer on her dad. And being a member of a large family – 7 girls and 1 boy – she learned important lessons about living life to the fullest regardless of your age or health.

That’s probably why when an American recruiter came to her hometown of Manilla, seeking nurses to bring back to the States, she was quick to apply; as were 900 other people! With only 200 applicants being selected, Perlita was unsure of her future. And even once she discovered she was in fact one of the lucky selected, she had no idea what was to come.

Her travels took her to work for a Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock Arkansas in 1972. It created such a buzz that the local newspaper put a headline story about the nurse recruits on the front page.

For Perlita, immigrating was much more than a headline, though. Rooming with another nurse in her very first apartment so far away from her family and navigating a completely new culture was intimidating to say the least. From learning how to cook and do laundry, to understanding the racial divides of the time, to studying harder than she ever had in her life, Perlita had many moments of trepidation and loneliness.

But she persevered, adjusted to American life with grace, and passed her board exam on the first attempt.

Perlita continued her training ultimately earning a Bachelor of Science in nursing, an almost complete Master’s Degree in health management, is ACLS certified and holds certificates in case management, and 12 lead EKG interpretation, has experience as a home health care coordinator, branch manager, marketing nurse coordinator, infusion nurse for in-home health visits, coronary care, and surgical surveillance care.

In 1973 Perlita moved to Chicago, IL to join her sister who was then a pediatric physician. It was here that Perlita met Jose; the man who would become her husband two years later. Together they had 4 children and raised them while both working demanding full-time jobs. It was a constant struggle. But Perlita kept her head up and never lost her compassion for others and her passion for nursing.

When the day came 11 years ago for Perlita to begin her job at ManorCare Health Services – Elk Grove in Illinois, she knew it would be an adjustment. Caring for a handful of patients in a hospital setting is quite different than caring for the 40+ residents at Elk Grove who looked to her for not only physical care, but mental and emotional support as well. Through her years she’d learned how important it was to be a team player, and to understand that the team included nurses, CNA’s, physicians, and most importantly patients. She was determined to put not only her knowledge of critical care to use, but also her understanding of people.

“To create harmonious relationships you need be dedicated to nursing, and show compassion for those around you. That creates less stress on everyone; nurses and patients,” Perlita advises.

When asked why she chose to continue her work at a long term care facility such as ManorCare, she said, “I, being a senior myself, have a special connection with elderly patients. I can apply my critical care expertise, my good assessment skills, listen to their complaints, ease their pain emotionally, physically and mentally. I enjoy taking care of and supporting my patients. It’s important to me to make a positive impact on their lives. To top it all off, taking care of these patients is good therapy for me!”

Perlita has not only positively impacted lives, she’s saved lives. Shirlayne Miranda, Director of Nursing at Elk Grove tells us that Perlita is “dedicated to the profession, caring and always ready to help families and coworkers.” She shares that “Perlita is a pleasure to work with and her passion to care for others goes beyond work.”

 

We’re pretty sure her 15 grandchildren can attest to that as well! And since Perlita loves to cook, we think they must be very lucky grandkids.

For us at the Heartland Healthcare pharmacy, our favorite quote as we’ve gotten to know Perlita is that as a senior herself she’s come to realize that “age doesn’t matter when patients – or anyone – needs help.” Regardless of her age, she is just as strong, willing, and full of passion for caregiving as she was once upon a time as a young girl in the Philippines.

Her patients, coworkers, and family are all so very lucky to have her in their corner.

Thank you, Perlita for all you do and thank you for sharing your Life Story with us!

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