Filipina nurse gets praise, hug from President Obama

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Feb 22 2013 02:11 PM | Updated as of Feb 22 2013 10:49 PM

NEW YORK - It's been a week since Filipina nurse Menchu Sanchez was thrown into the national limelight during President Obama's state of the union address.

She was honored by Obama for her heroic act that saved 20 newborns when superstorm Sandy slammed the New York University’s Langone Medical Center.

Congratulations from co-workers and strangers still keep on coming.

“I'm so happy na nare-recognize nila ako,” Sanchez said. “Sa Mount Sinai, pagdating ko, paglabas ko ng elevator yung mga kasamahan ko palakpakan sila saka sigawan, tuwang-tuwa sila, meron pa silang maliit na picture, na ginawa dun,” she said.

Sanchez was sitting between First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden when Obama told the whole world the story of her heroism.

“We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez. When hurricane Sandy plunged her hospital into darkness, she wasn't thinking about how her own home was faring, her mind was on the 20 precious newborns in her care and the rescue plan she devised that kept them all safe,” Obama said during his State of the Union address.

In darkness, Sanchez and other nurses carried 20 sick babies from the neonatal ward down eight flights of stairs, with only their cell phones to light the way.

Meantime, rising floods threatened her own home in Secaucus, New Jersey. Sanchez said knowing that she had saved 20 little angels is the best part of this whole experience. Meeting and being honored by the President was just a bonus.

“Na-meet ko si President Obama right after his speech,” she recalled. “(Obama) grabbed me and he hugged me and he said he was glad that I was able to get there.”

Born and raised in Catanauan, Quezon, Sanchez graduated with a nursing degree at the Mary Chiles Hospital in Sampaloc, Manila.

She later obtained a bachelor's degree in nursing at the Makati Medical Center School of Nursing before migrating to America in the 80s.

For 10 years she worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia, before moving to the US.

She has been working as a nurse in New York for 20 years now.

“Wala na akong masasabi pa sa nagawa ko sa buhay ko, siguro ito na ang pinakamagandang nangyari. One of the highlights of my life will be this. To inspire other people, other nurses around the world,” Sanchez said.