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Tributes to devoted Norwich nurse after Covid tragedy

Tributes have been paid to devoted Norwich nurse, mother and Catholic Cathedral steward Estrella Catalan, who died last Friday at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital where she worked, after a month-long battle against Covid-19. Eldred Willey reports.

Emergency Department Staff Nurse Estrella, aged 52, who had been receiving treatment in the hospital’s Critical Care Complex, lost her battle against Covid-19 on February 5. She had worked in Accident & Emergency and was also an important member of the acute stroke team. Altogether she had worked at the hospital for nearly 20 years, since arriving from the Philippines. Colleagues and friends have flooded social media with touching tributes.

An active member of the St John’s Cathedral parish, where she served as a steward, Estrella leaves behind a husband, Melvin, and sons John and Josh. Their middle son, Vince, sadly died two years ago.

The Duke of Cambridge has paid tribute to Estrella. Speaking during a video meeting of the East of England’s NHS leadership team, Prince William said: “I also want to just sort of pass on my thoughts to all of you and your teams about Estrella Catalan, who I believe was a much loved member of most of your teams and had been in the region for a long time at I think King’s Lynn and the N&N.

“And I imagine that’s hit everyone very hard so I’m very sorry to hear that, and my thoughts from my family are all with all of you who knew her and her family.”

“They are a lovely family,” said Matthew Fernandez-Graham, Director of Finance and Resources for the Diocese. “We got to know them through Estrella’s son Josh. She was part of the Filipino team which organised the Sinulog Festival for the Baby Jesus.”

Canon David Paul from St John’s Cathedral said: “Estrella was a really devoted member of the Cathedral congregation and community. She worked tirelessly to help others. The outpouring of support for her family is testament to how many lives she touched. 

“During her last hours, Fr Leo led the rosary with other members of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital nursing team as Fr Simon anointed her. Her passing leaves a hole in the lives of many, but we especially remember her family: we offer our prayers for her husband Melvin and their children, and all who grieve Estrella’s passing. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Just a month ago Estrella gave an emotional interview to the BBC from her hospital bed. “I want to help,” she said. “But I don’t know when. I don’t mind working and doing even extra shifts to help the trust, but I’m here as a patient. I’m helpless.”

Two online fund-raising pages for Estrella and her family have already generated over £47,000 from 2,700 donors.

Colleague and friend Jenelyn Bales set up one page, which says: “To her colleagues, Estrella is most caring, conscientious and hardworking person a department could ask for. She puts the needs of others first before  her own. Her selflessness and dedication carried on even when she was on her hospital bed, she still thought and talked about when she could go back  to work to help patients and colleagues throughout this pandemic.”

You can support the family through these links:



Norfolk and Norwich chief executive Sam Higginson said: “Estrella was a hugely respected, loved and dedicated member of the Emergency Department team and the Acute Stroke Team.  She was a wonderful person and a caring and conscientious nurse, who loved to teach and mentor students; she will be terribly missed.

“We know this will be a huge shock to our staff and over the coming days and weeks we will formulate a fitting memorial to Estrella in collaboration with her family, friends and colleagues.

“This is a heart-breaking reminder of the situation we are facing every day to help others and we want to thank our staff for their ongoing courage and commitment during the pandemic.”

Colleagues at the NNUH and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn have paid tribute with a minute’s silence and clapping.

Estrella’s funeral is planned for March 5 and there will be a vigil for the night before to allow family, friends and colleagues to go to St John’s Cathedral to pay their respects.

Pictured above is Estrella Catalan (image from BBC) and, below, with her family