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Unsung heroes: Nursing staff at Mary Free Bed share a special bond

Two women were brought together by fate. Now, they're working to keep us safe during the pandemic.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The nursing staff is often regarded as heroes fighting on the frontlines against the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’re putting faces to that title and sentiment by bringing you the story of two women right here in Grand Rapids with a special bond, brought together by fate and working together to keep us safe.

Anuncia "Annie" Cangco is a nurse tech at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.  

From the Mariana Island of Saipan, a commonwealth of the United States, Annie survived a super typhoon that hit the island in 2018.

“It completely destroyed our home, we lost everything," Cangco said.

Annie and her family, including her son Bradley, a paraplegic, had been living at a shelter for three months when she met Kathie Fetting, a volunteer with the Red Cross and nurse at Mary Free Bed.

“I immediately thought if I could just put him in a plane and bring him to Mary Free Bed, that’s a pipe dream," Fetting said.

It’s a dream that became reality.

“I emailed Kathie and I told her, guess what FEMA offered us a relocation opportunity and she said come here to Michigan and I said, I’m scared. I’m scared to come here with no family. She said don’t worry I’ll take care of you," Cangco said. 

That’s exactly what Kathie did, helping Bradley to get the care he needed.

“I knew there was so much more that both her son and she could achieve by coming here," Fetting said.

Bradley, now 25, was the victim of a car accident that paralyzed him from the chest down, but his time at Mary Free Bed has improved his condition dramatically. Now, he even helps to care for his 5-year-old brother while mom is at work.

“He’s independent, he’s doing his own care, he can transfer from the bed to the wheelchair, from the wheelchair to the bathtub, and out of the bathtub again,” Cangco said.

Despite arriving in 2019 during some brutal winter weather, Annie and her family fell in love with West Michigan.

“I liked how people were working and the care that my son had so I said I want to be a part of something like this, to take care of the people like how they take care of my son," she said.

Now Annie works with patients during the overnight hours at the hospital, sometimes just sitting with them and treating them like family.

“When I started working here then, I felt like this was my true calling. This is what I’m meant to do," Annie said. 

The past year and a half have been a challenge for nursing staff like Annie and Kathie, but it’s one they take on without hesitation.

“I feel like I’m doing what you should do and it’s what we do every day here," Fetting said.

Despite the test caused by the pandemic, Annie has no plans to leave Grand Rapids.

“We’ve thought about going back home but if we go back we don’t have the same resources like how they have here and Mary Free Bed has become a really big part of our life," Cangco said. 

It’s become home.

Already a hero to many of her patients, Annie's coworkers are encouraging her to go to school to become a registered nurse. It’s something she’s still considering, but one thing she knows for sure is Kathie Fetting is her hero.

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