From that day forward, Lopez plans to take life easy and spend more time with family members.
Lopez never thought about having a nursing career when she married Efraim Lopez and started a family. But that all changed in 1979 when Efraim passed away.
“I had to get into something to support my family,” Lopez said. “It was a shock. My youngest daughter was only a year and a half old.”
So she went to Bee County College in search of a career that would provide that support.
“At first, I looked into banking,” Lopez said. She thought of becoming a teller in one of the local banks.
But the staff at the college talked her into trying their licensed vocational nursing program. She enrolled in 1980.
“It was very hard because I’d been out of school for 15 years,” Lopez said.
“But I found out it was what I wanted to do.”
The young mother said she thought of helping folks to get over serious illness was a real encouragement to her.
For the next 12 or 13 years, Lopez worked as an LVN. But she realized that was not enough for her, so she enrolled in the registered nursing “Bridge Program” at the University of Houston in Victoria.
“That was a year and a half, every single day,” Lopez said. The routine was grueling for a single mother.
Lopez ended up spending much of her career working in the hospital’s intensive care unit. It proved to be one of the greatest blessings in her life.
“I loved taking care of patients,” she said. In the ICU, nurses provided total patient care.
“Making them feel better, making them well was the thing I loved the most,” Lopez said.
One of her greatest rewards was when her children would come home and tell her that someone had told one of them, “Your mother saved my life.”
Lopez said her last day was Dec. 31. “And I’m working until the very last day.”
That includes pulling shifts on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
Although she will miss her career, Lopez feels it is time to devote her time to other endeavors.
First, Lopez will move to Lockhart to be nearer two of her daughters. There she will become more involved in her hobbies, like yard work, sewing and crocheting and riding her bicycle.
One of the most exciting plans she has will be to travel with her daughters. They have been to Europe in the past, but Lopez was not able to go along. Now she will.
Lopez has four daughters, Delma, Irma, Nora and Andrea. Her son, Andrew, was killed in a car accident six years ago. He was the father of her granddaughters, Victoria and Marina.
Victoria will receive her master’s degree in Ames, Iowa, soon, and Marina is a third-grader in Skidmore.
Their mother, Deborah, is a librarian at the school in Skidmore.
“I’ve really enjoyed working at this hospital,” Lopez said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen major changes.”
Lopez said she has made a lot of friends at Christus Spohn. “They become family,” she said. “Basically, you spend more time with them than you do your family.”
Of course, not everyone is ready to see Lopez go. She said the doctors do not want her to retire.
“She does an excellent job,” said Raymond Ramos, chief operating officer for the Beeville facility.
“She’s going to be a huge loss to this hospital,” Ramos said. “When she was on shifts, we were always confident. She’s just a big asset to this facility.”
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.