A beloved nurse mentor passes: Family and coworkers honor his legacy
Adrian Abada, RN, a beloved mentor and nurse at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center for 17 years, died in early November after a long battle with colon cancer and a short battle with COVID-19. He died among those he had loved and mentored for years — his coworkers.
“He was one of the most dedicated, kind nurses I’ve ever worked with in my entire career,” said Adrian’s supervisor, Nurse Manager Ranjit Kaur. “He made others, especially younger nurses, feel like they were family.”
“He left us with so many gifts,” said Abada's brother Rene Abada. “Everyone was very thankful to him; they learned a lot from his experiences. We wanted to honor Adrian, to give something back.”
To honor his memory and his work, Abada's family donated $5,000 through MultiCare South King Health Foundation toward MultiCare’s Code Lavender program. Code Lavender provides spiritual care and mental health support to MultiCare employees.
In 2020, more than 1,000 MultiCare frontline workers and staff received support from Code Lavender. Generous contributions from donors like Abada's family help fund Code Lavender.
During a small, physically distant gathering in mid-December, Abada's siblings, Rene and Teresa Abada, presented the donation to MultiCare South King Health Foundation Executive Director, Monica Hurley, and South King County Code Lavender Wellness Partner, James Fowler.
Afterward, everyone helped unpack two carloads of Abada's favorite snack — potato chips in a variety of flavors — to share with Abada's work family. It was their way of honoring the “Chip King.”
The “Chip King” mentor program
It’s unclear how the “Chip King” came to be crowned, but staff throughout the hospital knew Abada as such, and many team members had at some point shared a chip snack with him over a talk about a patient, a new procedure or a simple chat about their days.
Abada's sister Teresa said it was one of the ways he connected with his coworkers.
“Any time I’d come to visit him, he always had big bags of chips lined up in his house,” she said with a laugh. “He would not let me touch them, saying those were all for work! When he shopped, he thought about what [flavor] each person liked.”
"Adrian’s legacy": guiding a generation of new nurses
Abada began working at the Auburn Medical Center in August 2003 and remained after MultiCare took over operations in 2012.
Over the years, he served in a number of roles, most recently as charge nurse on the progressive care unit.
His managers noted that Abada nurtured and guided a generation of new nurses, teaching them his manner of providing gentle care and strong advocacy for patients.
Clinical Director Rose Atkins worked with Abada through most of his tenure at Auburn and observed, “Adrian left a legacy at Auburn. He could lead our staff in ways that never alienated anyone. He always found a way to encourage people — our patients — to go that extra mile,” she said.
A caregiver passes: he was living by coming to work
Abada's family shared that he had always wanted to work in health care. Their father was a licensed practical nurse, and Abada expressed his interest early on.
Adrian Abada grew up in Alberta, Canada, and the family spent time with extended family in the Philippines. After nursing school, Abada worked as a travelling nurse before settling in Washington.
In 2018, Abada was diagnosed with colon cancer. He underwent surgery and several rounds of chemo. In late 2019, his doctors told him there were no other treatment options. Abada had taken leave but began to feel isolated and depressed.
His sister Teresa said he wanted to come back to work and to focus on helping others.
“He told me, ‘Don’t worry about me because what I do is easy,’” she said. “He loved his work family. He was living by coming to work. It was his way of fighting cancer.”
Despite taking precautions, Abada became one of many people across our state who contracted the COVID-19 virus. Within a few days of showing symptoms, he was admitted to the Auburn Medical Center's intensive care unit. He died November 9, after three weeks in the ICU.
“It was a hard day for our staff,” Kaur said.
“When a death is close like this, it forces you to grapple with your own mortality,” Atkins said. “We see a lot of tragic, horrible things in this work and it’s hard to ask for help.”
The Code Lavender program helps by bringing grieving staff together with an interdisciplinary mix of colleagues that includes physicians, nurses, chaplains, mental health counselors and others. It is a program that gives back to those who care for others.
His family’s donation to the Code Lavender program seemed the perfect way to honor Abada and his legacy of caring.
“He was the best nurse I’ve worked with in my 43 years,” said Atkins. “I miss him. He was kind, nurturing and unflappable. He’s left a huge legacy here.”
Giving to the Code Lavender program
Code Lavender helps health care workers at MultiCare receive rapid-response care, support and resiliency training. You can help support this program by making a donation today.
About The Author
Melissa Campbell is the communication specialist for MultiCare Auburn and Covington medical centers. You may reach her at [email protected].More stories by this author