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Nurses at Norton Audubon Hospital remember fellow frontline worker who died fighting COVID-19

Michael Rodriguez was a nurse at the hospital for 26 years and was on the frontline of pandemic since March. He passed away in late November due to the virus.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Michael Rodriguez, a Norton Audubon Hospital nurse who worked at the hospital for 26 years and had been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, was remembered by coworkers today after dying from the virus in late November. 

"Mike was in the ICU, the staff and myself we were not able to go visit him," an emotional Mary Golding, Rodriguez's fellow nurse, said.  

Since March the two had been face to face with the pandemic face to-face with new challenges of caring for COVID-19 patients, who were unable to see their families.

Like the patients he tended to, in his final hours Rodriguez wasn't with his biological family, instead surrounded by his work family.

"We kind of felt that he was alone there even though the nurses on the unit were there with him, we we still felt like he was alone," said Golding. "Many people have stepped up and said I really want to be there for people for families that shortage is going to get greater when more nurses die as they can't emotionally psychologically physically continue."

Rodriguez's brother had a similar sentiment saying that, 'there's an old saying if you play with fire you will be burned' –this COVID virus is like fire for our doctors, nurses and EMT workers, their bravery needs to not be forgotten.'

Delanor Manson is the Chief Executive Officer with Kentucky Nurses Association, she previously worked as a hospice nurse and says COVID-19 is taking a toll on nurses emotionally, physically and psychologically.

She says before the pandemic there was a nation-wide nurse shortage.

"If we don't protect the nurses we have now as the surge continues most of our facilities have figured out a plan to expand beds if we don't have staff to take care of the patients in those beds being able to expand beds makes no difference," Manson said.

The 6th floor of Audubon may be quieter these days in the midst of a harsh reality, Golding says her dedication to help others hasn't wavered.

"We're here because of patients because of their families, patients are here some they don't get to see their families so we have to be here for them, we have to be here for each other," Golding said.

Rodriguez was laid to rest the day before Thanksgiving.

Contact reporter Paulina Bucka at pbucka@whas11.com.  Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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