Josephine Peter fell ill with coronavirus and died on Saturday (April 18), after doctors informed her husband Thabo that she was only being kept alive by a mechanical ventilator.
She had been working at a hospital in Southport, Merseyside, since February but before she fell ill she told friends she wanted to return to South Africa to be with her children.
Her friend and fellow nurse Cynthia Charles told the BBC that Josepine, 55, had grown up and trained in apartheid South Africa and qualified in 1998 before working in the NHS for 18 years after a nursing recruitment drive, working first at Princess Margaret Hospital in Windsor.
She then moved to London, where she worked for Care UK, before joining Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust, where she worked in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, described as her “passion”.
Manini, as she was known to friends and loved ones, later joined a nursing agency, working at hospitals across the country.
Josephine’s daughter Buhle, 21, and son, Bongani, 30 had returned to South Africa and she was planning on joining them and her granddaughter while working at Southport and Formby District General Hospital in Merseyside.
Friends and colleagues of Josephine, both in the UK and in South Africa, have already raised more than £7,000 from more than 300 donors to repatriate her body and cover funeral costs.
Trish Armstrong-Child, the trust’s chief executive, said: “Josephine, from Hayes, had worked at Southport since February on an agency contract until falling ill in early April. She was a nurse for 20 years and was married with two children.
“Josephine’s husband, Thabo, told me she was passionate, hardworking, always putting others before herself. She was ‘my heroine’, he said.
“Our thoughts are with Josephine’s family at this difficult time and we offer them our sincere condolences.”
James Lock, chief executive of Altrix, the nursing agency she was employed by, said: “Josephine was a diligent nurse who was highly regarded and liked by the team.
“She would always go that extra mile and was a pleasure to work with. My team and I send our very best wishes and deepest condolences to Josephine’s family.”