As Sevala Habibovic neared the end of her life, she turned to her nurse, Sanja Josipovic, for comfort and reassurance.
At 46, Sevala was not afraid of dying from the breast cancer she had battled for two years. Her only concern was for her husband and two daughters, Edina Habibovic and Emina Habibovic-Bolt.
“She was most worried about Edina because she was young and hadn’t finished school yet,” Sanja told GMA. “We developed a close bond, like sisters really. She was a powerful woman, strong-minded. She wasn’t scared to die, she was just worried about her kids and husband.”
Sanja met the Habibovic family while she was working as a home health nurse with Northwestern Medicine in Winfield, Illinois. She and Sevala hit it off right away because both of them are Bosnian refugees.
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For six months, Sanja cared for Sevala in her home, where they spent plenty of time discussing Sevala’s worries about her family, particularly when it came to her youngest daughter.
Edina was only 19 at the time, and Sevala feared she wouldn’t finish earning her nursing degree without her mom’s help and encouragement. Moved, Sanja assured her dying patient that she would step into the shoes Sevala would leave behind. She vowed to check in with Edina after her mom’s death to make sure she was getting through college. Most importantly, she promised to be there at Edina’s graduation ceremony.
“That was the only thing that she was going to miss, Edina’s graduation,” the nurse explained. “So, I said, ‘I will be there.'”
Tragically, Sevala passed away on Christmas Eve in 2017. Over the next several years, Sanja made good on her promise by keeping tabs on Edina and becoming a surrogate mother to her in many ways.
Edina had been wavering over whether she should continue on her chosen path, but watching Sanja care for her mother convinced her to keep going.
“I thought the medical field wasn’t for me. Then, my mom got sick and I had all the experience going in and out of the hospital,” Edina said. “When my mom passed away, I thought, ‘Well, I want to do this. I want to make the same impression on somebody else’s life.'”
In December 2020, Edina completed her studies and graduated from Chamberlain University’s College of Nursing & Public Health in Chicago, Illinois. As promised, Sanja was there to fill the chair Sevala would have sat in if she could have been there!
“Sanja told me that my mom had her promise that she’d be there, take her place in the pinning ceremony, and always be there for me, and she has been,” Edina said.
Not only did Sanja attend the ceremony, but she also helped Edina get a job at Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital where Sanja works. Now, the two of them will be coworkers as well as honorary family members!
This nurse really went above and beyond her duties for this family. Somewhere up in heaven, we bet Sevala is smiling!
Share this story to thank Sanja for fulfilling her important promise.
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