Working as a night nurse at London’s King Edward VII Hospital in London, Saldanha answered the phone one night when a pair of Australian DJs called. The two radio hosts, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, impersonated Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles and inquired about Kate. Not realizing it was a prank, Saldanha accidentally revealed details of the royal mom’s severe morning sickness. Overwhelmed with guilt and shame, the 46-year old nurse hanged herself three days later, on Dec. 7, 2012.
(The radio station later said they were “deeply saddened” by the tragedy, and Prince William wrote the family a letter of condolence from both him and Kate in which he said, “We were both very shocked to hear about Jacintha, and have been thinking a lot about her recently. Many of the nurses in the hospital spoke highly of her and I’m sure you know how great a nurse she was.”)
“The first few years were the hardest,” Saldanha’s daughter, Janice Pinto, 20, tells Australia’s WHO magazine. She describes her family as “coping and getting on with our lives” as the fifth anniversary of the tragedy approaches on Dec. 7. (They will quietly commemorate the anniversary in church.) “She would call me every day at 6 p.m., just before she went to work. To check up. You know, ‘How are you doing? How was school?’ That phone call is what I miss every day.”
“It has just been perseverance,” says her son, Junal Barboza, 21. “It’s just been a case of having to keep going. Keep going for her.”
The family is now funneling their grief into a new project that they hope will help the lives of others. Along with Saldanha’s widower, Benedict Barboza, 53, her children are helping to establish a hospital in Mangalore, India, in her honor.
Scheduled for completion in mid-2018, the hospital will “take care of the poor people, the sick people from the roadsides,” says Benedict, who has already built a playground for orphans in his wife’s name at the nearby Maria Nivas convent.
“My dad’s idea is really amazing,” Pinto says of the 200-bed facility in her mother’s hometown and final resting place. “She had plans to open a nursing home or do something for the elderly or the sick, so it’s something she would really want.”
Adds Junal: “She was the sort of person who would always go the extra mile to help a family member, and we’ve had a number of significant letters from people within the medical profession telling us just how good she was at her job.
“Learning about her was a real eye-opener and has provided the stepping stone for what we want to achieve,” he adds. “Whatever I do now, any achievement, will be for her and for my dad and for my family. That is the way that I kind of live my life.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).