Maria and her daughter, Vianney, sharing a tearful embrace moments after they were reunited.

The joy of the holiday season has been heightened at Alameda Health System (AHS) as one of our own, Maria Mendoza-Sanchez, AHS-Highland Hospital Nurse, has returned just in time to spend the holidays with her children and her friends. Reuniting with her family and a job she loves after more than a year, she plans to use her experience to help her patients.

“One thing I know for sure is when I return to work at the oncology unit I will definitely be able to relate to my patients on a different level. The feeling of having to cope with such intense pain, with a gloomy cloud over your head even on a sunny day will never be forgotten. I have definitely grown from this experience.”

Caught up in a more aggressive implementation of US immigration policy, Sanchez was deported in 2017. After successfully obtaining an H1-B Visa, sponsored by Alameda Health System, she was reunited with her family and colleagues Saturday.

“We are extremely excited about Maria Mendoza Sanchez’s reunification with her family after a lengthy separation,” said Delvecchio Finley, CEO, Alameda Health System. “Her departure was a loss to Highland Hospital, the staff and our patients who have consistently praised her. Maria reflects the values of caring and healing demonstrated by all our caregivers. We eagerly look forward to her return.”

Maria and her son reunited after over a year apart.

“My coworkers have been there for me this whole time. It is truly an honor to work alongside these amazing individuals. There are no words to express how grateful I am.”

Sanchez said even during her darkest days her AHS family always rallied around her. “They have constantly checked in on me and my kids while I have been in Mexico, offering words of encouragement, or sometimes just listening to me as I cry or vent my frustration.”

While reunited with her children, her husband is still in Mexico. They agreed that the children needed to have one of them home. “My oldest daughter (Vianney) had to turn into a ‘little mama’ since my children were without parents. It was the worst feeling to be separated from them. My kids are my life. I’m so proud of how strong my kids were during this process.”

Vianney said that it was hard shifting from being an older sister to a mom. “It was really difficult herding everyone,” she said.

Like her mom, who focused on others up to and during her deportation, Vianney despite her own pain, she was thinking of Maria. “The most difficult part was not being able to comfort my mom.”

Sanchez is looking forward to returning to work at the telemetry-oncology unit. “I can’t wait to be back with my unit. They are my extended family and I have missed them too. Being a nurse isn’t a job for me, it is a privilege.”

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to assist Maria’s family:

 Contact Nancy MacKinnon