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SAN DIEGO – From the deck of the Star of India, a local critical care nurse who has been working with COVID-19 patients during the pandemic sang a moving rendition of the national anthem for this year’s “Big Bay Boom 4th of July Special.”

Keena Mapanao recently has been on the front lines in the COVID-19 Unit at Sharp Hospital.

A native of the Philippines, Mapanao immigrated to the U.S. when she was 12, facing a number of new challenges including being bullied for her accent and struggling to make ends meet. But she later became a U.S. citizen, started a photography businesses and both she and her mother earned nursing degrees.

Now, she’s helping patients battle the global pandemic, which as of Saturday was responsible for the deaths of more than 130,000 Americans and had tallied a total of 2.9 million cases in the U.S.

Mapanao was joined on the Star of India by American Sign Language interpreter Kayla Sweet.