The lasting legacy of nurse Margaret Ong

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Margaret Ong’s first patient was her Chinese immigrant mother when she was just a child.

Since then, Ong has taken care of thousands of people in her career as a nurse in Sacramento and despite her recent passing, her brand of care continues.

“A lot of pride in that for sure,” Ong’s husband, Murray Levison told FOX40 through tears. “You know it wasn’t until recently that that even dawned on me, that she, that she made such a huge impact in the community.”

Levison says he had no doubt about the force he joined his life to back in 1996 on a jazz cruise.

“Margaret was the greatest thing that came into my life,” Levison said.

Many say one of the greatest things about Ong, who was a mother and one of the area’s first nationally certified emergency room nurses, was that she was always focused on doing great things for anyone placed in her care.

Kaiser Permanente nurse Wendy Jacobson had Ong for her preceptor, an on-site training supervisor, in 2003.

“I was very fortunate to have someone who was an advocate for people, not only in the ER but outside of the ER,” Jacobson said. “A strong person with a lot of energy who could stand up to doctors when she didn’t believe in what was going on.”

The desire to improve outcomes for every patient eventually took Ong to a job lobbying the state’s Emergency Medical Services Authority to authorize the use of devices that shock a heart back into proper rhythm outside of hospital settings.

“She believed in taking advantage of opportunities,” said Deputy Sacramento Fire Chief Rod Chong. “I think she always looked for better ways of doing things.”

While making a defibrillator sales call, Ong helped change fire department policy to ensure a continuum of care so city paramedics responding to something like a crash stay with their patient all the way to the emergency room instead of sharing a patient with a private ambulance crew.

“It wasn’t unheard of for a particular company to try to steal a call from another one. I know she told me one time that an ambulance ran out of gas. And she was wondering this can’t be the best way that we can serve the public when they need us the most,” Levison recalled.

Even as her own health declined in the last year, due to a genetic kidney disease, gastrointestinal cancer and the recurrence of a lung cancer she’d thought she’d beaten, she was still focused on others, bringing a massage chair to pandemic-weary colleagues at Kaiser.

“She really felt like she wanted to give back something,” Jacobson said.

Since Ong was all about results, not recognition, many are just learning all she’s given to the region. For those who were there when she became the patient and her journey of giving came to an end a few weeks ago.

“So it was an honor for me to care for her at the end, but that little bit could never repay all that she did for me and so many other people,” Levison said.

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