‘He always had everybody’s back:’ Saint Thomas health care workers remember ICU nurse who died from COVID-19

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — For the last 25 years, Gary Woodward worked as a critical care nurse in the intensive care unit at Ascension Saint Thomas West hospital.

The 64-year-old father of three, and grandfather of six, was a nurse to thousands of patients in his lifetime and the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop him from serving others.

But unfortunately the virus claimed his own life.

“He was our rock and that rock is gone,” Gary’s wife, Jacque Woodward, told News 2 in a Zoom interview.

Jacque says her husband contracted COVID-19 at the end of October and he was gone by the end of November. It started with a cough, then a fever, failing kidneys, and fluctuating oxygen levels.

Jacque first spoke to News 2 last week when Gary was still fighting for his life. He lost his battle over the weekend.

“This was devastating for Gary’s Saint Thomas team, not only his nurses, but the physicians. They all knew him, everybody knew him,” Jacque said.

Gary fought against the coronavirus in the same wing where he worked. His own co-workers and friends took care of him in the ICU and even prayed outside his room until he drew his final breath.

Nurse Judy Mast and Dr. Chris Cropsey call it a tremendous loss for their team Saint Thomas West.

“They’re suffering right now. But they also felt it was an honor to be able to take care of him,” Mast said.

“It’s just so different when it’s somebody that you know and care about,” Dr. Cropsey said.

The pair of health professionals are encouraging the public to mask up and keep their social distance from people to help slow the spread of the deadly virus.

“The public needs to step up and help us to make this go away,” Mast said.

Gary Woodward won’t return home, or to the hospital, but his family said this is not a final goodbye.

“I know where Gary is. He is with the Lord and we’re going to see him again. We are going to see him,” Jacque said.

Gary’s family started a scholarship fund for aspiring critical care nurses in his honor.

For the establishment of the Gary Alan Woodward Scholarship, donations may be made to the Saint Thomas Health Foundation. 

Checks may be sent to: 
Saint Thomas Health Foundation  4220 Harding Road
Nashville TN 37205

Please note “Gary Alan Woodward Scholarship” in the memo section of the check.

Online gifts can be made here. Click the “Donate Today” button and write “Gary Alan Woodward Scholarship” on the other designation line.

COVID-19 in Tennessee

(This reflects what the TDH is reporting each day at 2 p.m. CST )

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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