Tributes flow for late nurse

2020-05-12 06:00
Sister Petronella Benjamin had passion for people and was loved by many.

Sister Petronella Benjamin had passion for people and was loved by many.

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“She made everyone feel like they were important.”

This is how the late sister Petronella Benjamin was described by Rudi Cookson, her brother-in-law.

Benjamin (61), a nurse at a Golden Acre clinic in the City Bowl, died on Wednesday 29 April due to Covid-19 complications.

Today (12 May) marks International Nurses Day and what better time to commemorate Benjamin who, like many other essential workers, was at the front line, fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Benjamin, or "Ma Nellie" as she was fondly known, was set to retire on Thursday 30 April, a day before she died.

She served in the nursing profession for approximately 40 years.

Cookson says Benjamin, a God-fearing woman, lived a purposeful life.

“She always strived to do the right thing, even if many opposed her for that. She was a woman of integrity and not hypocrisy,” adds Cookson.

Michele Lewis, Benjamin’s daughter-in-law, says: “What a beautiful, caring, loving person she was; I always admired her. She always went the extra mile for everyone. She loved her family dearly.”

Tributes for the mother of four continue to pour in on social media; many echoing that Benjamin was not only excellent in her job but an equally amazing human being.

Shumeez Solomons, a former patient of Benjamin, said in a Facebook post: “You were the only nurse I’ve come to know with the most amazing bedside manner. On my last visit, you told me you were about to retire and our last conversation will stick with me forever. I remember wishing you the best of luck for your future.”

Lewis added that Benjamin was also a pastor and loved preaching powerful messages of hope to her congregants.

Nomafrench Mbombo, provincial health minister, described Benjamin as a spiritual person.

“Those working in town, specifically staff from Parliament and government who used to be her clients at Long Street and Golden Acre station clinics, would remember her passionate caring attitude. She was a woman’s health and reproductive rights patron, who started her nursing career in the then Woodstock hospital and used nursing as conduit to serve the community.”

Mbombo added that Benjamin passed on her passion for nursing to her daughter Alicia, who is also a nurse.

Cookson reiterates that Benjamin contracted the virus at the clinic and not in her community as, according to him, the national department of health has stated. “The family demands a formal retraction from the department of health and we would like a public apology from the official who placed this statement in the media.”

Lockdown regulations regarding funerals permits no more than 50 people, which meant only close family could bid the beloved nurse farewell. She was buried on Tuesday 5 May.

Benjamin’s husband, Edwin, could not attend his wife’s funeral as he is in an intensive care unit in hospital after having contracted Covid-19.

“The funeral was sad for us, and something completely new. We were given a list by the government which we had to strictly comply to,” explains Cookson.

He adds that a hearse went to Benjamin’s Eerste River home but her casket was not in there.

“Only her immediate family members went to the mortuary in Kraaifontein where her body, which was sealed, was in a casket. A designated person was assigned to sanitise her coffin every few minutes. A representative from the department of health was also with us.”

He explains that from the mortuary, Benjamin was laid to rest at a cemetery in Kraaifontein.

Cookson says the family is planning a ceremony to celebrate her life after the lockdown.

“Permitting the lockdown is over by October, we will then invite everyone who knew Petronella to come and celebrate her life with us. Many wanted to be at her funeral but they could not and she deserves to be celebrated.”

Benjamin leaves behind eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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