Louisville nurse dies of COVID-19 as frontline workers fight virus surge

Michael Rodriguez, 67, was a nurse at Norton Audubon Hospital for 26 years before he passed away in November.
Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 1:07 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers are sacrificing their safety and sometimes their own lives.

During his daily briefing Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear honored the life of a Louisville nurse who died after contracting the virus. Michael Rodriguez, 67, was a nurse at Norton Audubon Hospital for 26 years before he passed away in November.

“I hope he serves as inspiration for all of us to be better people and during this difficult time do what it takes to protect everyone and help out our front-line health care workers,” Beshear said. “Michael deserves better than some of our efforts, he does, as do our other healthcare workers. So how about we do better in honor of him.”

Assistant nurse manager Mary Goldring told WAVE 3 she worked with Rodriguez for two decades on Norton Audubon’s sixth floor caring for orthopedic patients.

“He was always happy and joyful, he always set the mood for the day for the staff. If the staff was kind of low, he always brought them up, told them jokes, told them stories,” she said.

Goldring remembers Rodriguez as a good friend and “jokester” who loved oldies music, traveling, Starbucks coffee and his motorcycle. She said he also had a personal touch with his patients.

“He was great with the patients, you may go down the hall and peak into one of the patients’ rooms and he would be sitting there having a conversation with them about his boats and his motorcycles,” she said.

When Rodriguez tested positive for the virus in October, he was admitted to the same hospital where he cared for patients amid the pandemic. After some time in the ICU he left the hospital to begin rehab but died shortly after that on Nov. 20.

In the hospital, some of his coworkers became his caretakers while others were never able to say goodbye.

“We were not able to go visit him so we kind of felt that he was alone there,” Goldring said, “but kind of deep down in my heart, I knew that he knew we was with him.”

An October report from the International Council of Nurses shows more than 1,500 nurses have died from the coronavirus. Rodriguez’s death was just one of many sacrifices made by frontline healthcare workers caring for COVID patients knowing they’re at risk.

“Every day, every day you feel that, but you know you are here to take care of patients, so we have to be here for them, we have to be here for each other,” Goldring said.

Norton Audubon staff held a virtual memorial for Rodriguez on Thursday.

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