The Heroes Among Us | Jennifer Cueto Gequillana, DSHA '89
BY MADELINE ZUKOWSKI, DSHA '11
During this time of crisis, the community has looked to, and continues to depend on, the frontline heroes. The setting of their work may differ from person to person—they may work in hospitals, directly in the community, or in places with vulnerable populations—but they all have a passion and drive to help their neighbors, even as it presents a risk to their own well-being.
Dozens of DSHA alumnae are these heroes. They all embody what it means to be a Dasher — a confident, capable woman making an actual, tangible difference in the world for good.
They are believers. They draw on their faith that was strengthened at DSHA, and lean on this faith during this difficult time.
They are self-advocates. They assess their strength and abilities, and do their part to help whenever and however they know they are capable. With courage, they fight for what is right—for their patients and themselves —evenin the midst of risk and unknowns.
They are critical thinkers. Even though their job responsibilities and roles have evolved, they adapt quickly and intelligently, making choices of life and death each day.
They are communicators. They hear from those who are struggling; they respond and they share in those struggles. They communicate using both strategy and empathy, grace, and truth.
They are leaders. In constant collaboration with others, they proactively fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the effect it has on all members of the community.
While the DSHA Qualities of a Graduate were established in these frontlines alumnae during their time at DSHA or its founding schools, we are learning from them each and every day, even as they continue to discover new information themselves. They show us what it means to carry oneself with confidence, to selflessly help others, and to trust in our values and beliefs—even and especially when times are tough. We are proud to call these alumnae a part of our community.
Fred Rogers is famously quoted for saying, “When I was a boy and would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
These alumnae are quick to point to others who are helping, the people they find in their line of work that inspire them. But they deserve the recognition as well.
They are the helpers. And for that, we are immensely grateful.
Jennifer Cueto Gequillana, DSHA ‘89 Registered Nurse | Ascension SE Wisconsin
“Whatever your patient needs, that’s what you’re there for.”
Jennifer Cueto Gequillana, DSHA ’89 (pictured far left), a nurse directly serving COVID-19 patients, is all about meeting patient needs. Normally a pool nurse at Ascension Elmbrook Memorial Hospital, she has been deployed to Ascension’s St. Joseph’s Hospital as a member of the pandemic float team since the hospital started to see an inflow of patients with COVID-19 signs and symptoms.
“COVID-19 has affected patients both physically and mentally. They have fevers, are short of breath, have lost their appetites, and many of them are visibly scared and lonely,” Gequillana said.
Gequillana cares for positive-tested COVID-19 patients who are not on ventilators, but are considered stable. She administers medication, takes vitals, and most importantly, is someone “[her patients] can talk to.” When she’s not working, she’s quarantined herself, staying far from family and friends to protect them. Spending time apart from her whole family, even her husband, has been difficult, she shares. Her husband and adult son periodically drop off groceries for her, and talk with her while practicing social distancing. While she is able to FaceTime or talk over Zoom with friends and family, she uses much of her free time to reflect.
Because she has spent time alone and with those who are severely sick, she’s learned to lean on her faith.
“Working as a nurse during this pandemic has really taught me a lot about myself,” Gequillana said. “I realized how strong my faith is and how much I have to rely on it to continue to feel strength and hope.”
This importance of faith is one lesson of many she felt was emphasized at DSHA, but she also learned other skills that apply to her profession, including the value of self-esteem.
“I know that DSHA has helped me develop a strong sense of self with the confidence needed to deliver the best care,” she said.
But she is not fighting this pandemic alone; in fact, she says it takes a village to deliver excellent care. She receives great support from her colleagues both inside and outside of the hospital, including her sisters Josephine-Liezl Cueto Sampang, MD, DSHA ’97 (pictured far right), an ophthalmologist at Aurora Health Care, and Jane Cueto Leh, MD, DSHA ’93 (pictured center), an anesthesiologist at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
However, she not only sees the good inside of the medical field; she finds hope in the individuals who are making masks and delivering meals and flowers to the hospitals. She is grateful for the members of fire departments and law enforcement who are going out of their way to celebrate the little moments of joy, and sponsors and grocery stores who are supplying free food to those in need.
Gequillana understands that familiar slogan “we’re all in this together,” and that means doing whatever she can to assist others.
“I am really grateful to be a nurse during this time,” she said. “I am proud to be able to help wherever the help is needed.”