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David Bueso and his family moved to the United States in late 1999. He and his wife, Carla, had spent their entire lives in their native country, Honduras. Carla was seven months pregnant with their third child, Amie, at the time, and their two older children, Ramiro and David, were four and two, respectively.
The Buesos were in search of better opportunities. The U.S. government required that they be sponsored for nine months upon arriving in the country, so first they lived with David’s aunt in Chicago. Carla’s father, who was living in New York City, urged them to consider Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where they had relatives, as soon as they completed the sponsorship period.
“He assured us that the place for us was not New York or Chicago, but Chapel Hill,” says David, who had spent most of his life in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras. “At the beginning, I thought Chapel Hill was too small and too quiet, but it grew on us quickly.”
In October 2000, within weeks of arriving in Chapel Hill, David took a part-time job with Environmental Services (EVS) at UNC Hospitals. He worked in the Emergency Department (ED), performed well, and requested a full-time position. Several months later, he became a full-time employee, and it didn’t take long for his colleagues in EVS and the ED to recognize his contributions.
“He’s very self-driven and motivated,” says Jeff Phillips, RN, who has provided care in the ED at UNC Hospitals for twenty years. “He’s the type of employee who doesn’t waste time – as soon as he gets here, he works, and he works until he leaves. He’s one of the most reliable employees I’ve ever been around.”
In Honduras, David had taken English courses, and his facility with the language helped him adjust to his new surroundings. He immediately became a team leader in EVS, training Hispanic employees in the department and serving as a resource for EVS and ED staff when they needed to better understand Spanish-language speakers. He even helped Hispanic employees with details about policies and benefits.
Soon David expressed an interest in moving from EVS to another position within the ED, and the department hired him to be stock clerk.
“He picks up on things really quickly and he’s able to adapt to new responsibilities and even improve on how processes are done," says Phillips. "Now he probably knows more about this department in terms of where items can be found than anyone.”
Like Phillips, Rosy Fernandez, administrative officer for the ED, considers David’s work critical to the everyday functioning of a department that sees roughly 200 patients per day.
“This is a very busy department and supplies have to be handy to take care of our patients,” says Fernandez, who has been with the ED for seven years. “It’s too busy for our nurses or our NAs to stop what they’re doing and fill up stock, and that’s where his position is so crucial.”
Although David has flourished in his position in the ED and loves living in North Carolina, he admits that raising a family in the area has been difficult financially, despite working full-time. For the past fifteen years, to help with expenses, he has worked two jobs, the second at Armadillo Grill, in Carrboro, on weekends.
Now that his children are older – Ramiro, 20, David, 17, and Amie, 15 – Carla has been able to take on work as a nanny, which has helped. But David hasn’t stopped thinking about how to better his family, and through UNC Health Care’s tuition reimbursement program, he’s working toward obtaining his degree, with the goal of one day earning his MBA.
“I know it’s a long road, but right now I have no timetable,” says David, who along with Carla, Ramiro, and the younger David, became U.S. citizens in October 2008. “I’m not thinking about when I’ll get there. The most important thing is to continue what I’m doing and not stop.”
His educational and professional interests don’t come as a surprise to his colleagues in the ED. According to Phillips, David stresses family every chance he gets.
“When you ask him what’s going on, he loves to tell you about Carla or what kind of project he has going on at home or what his kids are up to,” Phillips says. “He’s just a terrific guy. Everything he does – his jobs, how hard he works, school – it’s all about improving his family, and not so much for himself. He’s just a very giving person.”
At home, David has already seen Ramiro graduate from Carrboro High School and begin working toward a degree in architecture at Wake Technical Community College, with the plan of enrolling at NC State in January. For now, spending time with the younger David and Amie remain his biggest priority.
In the ED, it’s been beneficial for him to work in a place that values not only him, but his family -- where he can be himself and share who he is and where he’s from.
“All the people here are so nice,” he says. “They’re interested in you and respect you and where you come from.”
‘My brothers and sisters’In May 2015, David traveled to Honduras with Ramiro, who hadn’t been back to the country since moving to the U.S.
“It was amazing,” says David. “We visited Tegucigalpa, where I lived most of my life, and then went to Comayagua, where I was born. We even took photos of ourselves at Comayagua’s sites to match the postcards we had.”
The two spent the first part of their trip visiting David’s father, among other relatives and friends, and completed it along the Caribbean coast, staying at a friend’s house on the beach and enjoying Garifuna culture.
Upon returning to North Carolina, the Buesos were looking forward to seeing David's father again. His dad had visited a year earlier, staying for nearly two months, and was planning to repeat the trip. However, in July, after picking up his updated passport in Tegucigalpa, he was hit by the mirror of a bus as he was walking down the street. He died within a matter of days, and David was on the first flight he could find to Honduras.
David spent 17 days with family and friends and returned to work in the ED on Aug. 3.
“They told me to take as much time as I needed," David says. "But I’d had enough time. It was better to come back and keep busy.”
While he was away, Mark Teresi, part-time stock clerk, and Terry Fuller, a former stock clerk in the ED who now works at UNC Health Care's Hillsborough Hospital, filled in for David, and the ED staff contributed money to help defray the costs of his flights. His absence didn’t go unnoticed by his colleagues.
“He’s incredible,” says Fernandez. “When he’s gone, we really feel it.”
For David, the assistance with his travel was unexpected.
“They are like my brothers and sisters,” he says. “I’m so glad to work with them and have their support.”