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ICU nurse dies following coronavirus diagnosis, family says

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Facebook tributes are pouring in for an ICU nurse in Tennessee who died after being diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. Gary Woodward, who led the night shift at Ascension St. Thomas West Hospital, did not have any underlying conditions, his widow told a local news outlet.

“Gary and I had a conversation when the pandemic first hit,” Jacque Woodward, Gary’s wife of 45 years, told News 4 Nashville. “We knew we were both in an environment that probably that risk was a little higher.”

Jacque Woodward, who also works in health care, had renewed the couple’s vows on Nov. 22 while wearing her old wedding dress, News Channel 5 reported.

“This was just my way to show him that I’m standing at that altar, and I know he’s not going to stand me up. He is coming home,” she told the news outlet.

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But Woodward’s kidneys shut down, and he began experiencing rapid heart rate and his temperature dropped to as low as 93 degrees, according to News 4 Nashville.

“This virus has taken a healthy man with no prior medical conditions and impacted every organ in his body,” she said.

Woodward is being remembered as a mentor for over 20 years at the hospital, where his coworkers are mourning the tremendous loss. The hospital’s CEO released a statement to local media remembering Woodward as “something fierce.”

“For those of you who did not have the honor of knowing Gary, he was something fierce and a true embodiment of our mission at Ascension St. Thomas,” Fahad Tahir said, according to News Channel 5. “As witnessed in his dedication to his calling since the beginning of this pandemic, Gary’s love for his patients was remarkable and inspiring. We are truly better for having Gary as part of our Ascension St. Thomas family.”

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A photo of the staff holding a prayer circle outside his room circulated on social media, as did many tributes to Woodward.

“Early this morning we lost one of the faces that made St. Thomas West PODS what it is today!” Chelsie Graves posted on Facebook. “After serving in the ICU for 25 years, he was surrounded this morning by his family and nurses who had served alongside him over the years, as he lost his battle against COVID. The office will be empty without his laughter, jokes, stories and gossip. He will be missed by so many! Rest In Peace Gary!”

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It was not clear how Woodward contracted COVID-19. According to the state’s department of health, there have been over 366,500 cases of COVID-19 in Tennessee since the start of the pandemic, including 3,000 of which were confirmed in the last day. The state has seen over 4,500 deaths, including an increase of 13 from yesterday.

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