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Exclusive: Waterbury nursing home family honors a fallen health care hero

Ilkah Hernandez was a loving mother of five children. She had a passion for helping people.

WATERBURY, Conn. — Honoring a fallen Healthcare hero. Abbott Terrace Health Care Center in Waterbury was one of the first nursing homes to be impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Every day is a battle and they are winning the war, but they lost a soldier along the way. 

“We were very good to each other she was a phenomenal person,” said Heather Walton. 

Ilkah Hernandez was a loving mother of five children. She had a passion for helping people. Ilkah became a nurse in 1993 and started as a nursing supervisor at Abbott Terrace in Waterbury five years ago.

 “Yes she actually planned on coming back to work this coming week. She was telling us she couldn’t wait to see us and then we found out the news two days later,” explained Walton, who is the Director of Nursing at Abbott Terrace Health Center.

Ilkah, like so many frontline workers, contracted the Coronavirus. She gave her life for her residents.

 “I’m going to remember her as a nurse. A good nurse. And I can’t think of anything better to be remembered as than that,” said fellow nurse Matthew Sabetta. 

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Matthew is one of the 52 staff members at Abbot Terrace alone who have gotten sick. 

“Certainly when you lost a fellow nurse it’s pretty profound and alarming. It reminds me that this is real and I don’t believe this crisis is over,” he said.

One of the first nursing homes to get hit hard, Abbot Terrace has logged 115 infections and 36 COVID deaths. 70 residents have recovered. As the fight continues inside, a healthcare family spilled outside. Prayers, songs, poetry. A tree was planted and a bench will be engraved. More infectious than the virus is the love of a healthcare family and the spirit of a frontline hero.

 “She was funny, she was feisty she was sarcastic but all at the same time in a loving manner,” said Walton.

After the ceremony was over it was back to the battle. They donned the PPE but underneath they wore the face of courage. T-shirts with Ilkah’s picture and a message on the back. “Until we meet again.”

And because so many of the staff have gotten sick many people are working double shifts 70 or 80 hours a week. They do it to make a difference.