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A nurse graduates in her daughter’s memory

When Selma Santos steps onto the stage to receive her nursing diploma, she’ll be there for her late twin daughter.
At 55, the Boca Del Mar resident will never forget how nurses went the extra mile to make Sabrina’s life easier and happier.
The “grad walk” will give Palm Beach State’s spring, summer and fall grads the choice of a photo op with PBSC president Ava Parker by appointment. Fall grads alone number 2,778, PBSC said.
Santos will receive an associate’s degree in nursing. She starts a bachelor of science in nursing at Palm Beach State in January.
Her inspiration and her daughter’s twin brother, Carlos Jr., were 33-week preemies when they were born in Boston 1995. Sabrina was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a chronic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. The cold weather prompted a move to West Boca.
Their daughter grew up to be “a very happy, spirited child and extremely bright,” is how her mom described her. She eventually enrolled in an online high school, and after graduating attended college in Boston. Santos went with her as support. Her dream job was to work in London as a translator of ancient texts.
They started looking for lung transplants when Sabrina turned 18. A year before the operation, they relocated to Cleveland to be close to the Cleveland Clinic where she would get a double-lung transplant. She stayed for two months, then passed away. She was 22.
“I cannot describe how it was the last two months of her life. It was very painful,” Santos said. “So many years we fought. We did a lot of fundraising for research. My son used to go to Washington, D.C., every year to do advocacy. We took her everywhere for treatment, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Now, three years later, when Santos thinks about their journey, she recalls how nurses touched their lives. At West Boca Medical Center they let Santos set up a tent in her hospital room, let Sabrina sleep inside and went in to take her vitals and hook up IVs.
A nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital spent so time trying to relax Sabrina before inserting treatment. Gail McPhee Holland, their nurse at the Cystic Fibrosis Clinic at the University of Miami, owned a dance studio. In her free time, she created and coached a dance routine for Sabrina and her twin brother to perform at Sabrina’s Quinceañera party.
Professor Julieta Diaz, taught Santos in the nursing program. All those years of caregiving gave her valuable insight into
how families experience health care and nursing. “Selma has these attributes, which I believe will make her a great nurse,” she said.
“I have not decided on a specialty yet. My first choice it is to work with cystic fibrosis patients,” Santos said.

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