Florida nurse saw coronavirus’ toll close up before dying in apparent OD
William Coddington didn’t die from the coronavirus. But the nurse, already fighting addiction for the better part of a decade, found himself overwhelmed at times by the suffering he dealt with in the COVID-19 ward at JFK Medical Center's north campus.
In April, the 32-year-old was found dead April 25 of a possible overdose.
“It was a collision of the drug epidemic and the pandemic,” his father, Ron Coddington, said Wednesday. "Two worlds colliding."
Coddington had been at the hospital for just three months. He'd worked in other branches in the hospital’s chain, HCA Healthcare, and been transferred to JFK North on 45th Street in West Palm Beach. It was his first Palm Beach County posting, and began “around the time coronavirus was hitting the fan,” his father said.
“He was in respiratory intensive care. That put him in the corona ward,” Ron Coddington said.
“He was scared,” his father said. “He was scared about going in. But he didn't hesitate going in.”
William Coddington posted on Facebook on April 13, "In my hospital we are rationing 1 n95 mask for my whole shift. We are running out of gowns. We are having people make makeshift face shields that end up snapping while in patients rooms. This isn’t my hospitals fault, as I’ve heard this from fellow nurses in different hospital districts.“
JFK said Wednesday in a statement, “We are not able to discuss information regarding our colleagues. Our condolences go out to the family and loved ones of William during this difficult time.”
JFK said it has enough equipment but, under federal guidelines, is conserving supplies "because we do not know what our future needs will be."
Ron Coddington said relatives arranged to provide backup masks and personal protection equipment for William. But he said the fear of infection always was there.
Once his son’s face shield fell off and a substance splashed on him. At other times he would scramble on a “code blue” emergency and forget his face shield, his father said.
Coddington said his son had quarantined himself for two weeks at one point after coming down with a fever. He said an autopsy report isn't back yet, so he doesn't know if his son was infected with COVID-19.
“He certainly wasn't, according to whatever test was being done at the hospital,” Ron Coddington said.
But the stressful and disheartening work, and the pandemic's shutdown of society, were wearing on William, his father said.
“It was the stress of seeing people hurting, people dying,” Ron Coddington said. Ron said his son told of holding a cellphone so patients could FaceTime with their families.
And, he said, “None of his friends were close to him. Think about it. I wouldn't want to be close to somebody working in a COVID ward.”
On April 1, three weeks before his son's death, Ron texted him, “You are so needed right now by others. You can be great. Please please bury me some day. Don’t make me bury you … I love you.”
Ron Coddington said Wednesday the texts weren't about fears of suicide or overdose. Instead, “That was a ’Be careful,’ ” he said. “If I'd have thought we were having an issue with the drug thing, I'd have stepped up in a different way.”
Around the time William Coddington, born and raised in Broward County, graduated from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, he developed pain in his leg that doctors initially feared was cancer. Part of his shinbone was removed, and he later got addicted to opiates, his father said.
William was at the Hanley Center in West Palm Beach, then later relapsed and spent time at an addiction center in Broward, Ron Coddington said.
“This is a very good kid. A loving man,” Ron Coddington said. “But he had his demons.”
As the coronavirus has shut down society, people in recovery have been unable to gather and can not even meet face to face with their sponsors. That included William, his father said.
William lived with his mother, Ron's ex-wife, Carolyn, in Deerfield Beach, and was looking for an apartment of his own, Ron said.
He said on the night of William's death, William spent time on the phone with his sponsor and friends.
Ron said authorities told him they obtained a video showing his son sitting in his car at a hotel parking lot, when another vehicle pulled up and "they saw what they thought was an exchange.“
Later, he said, William's mother was unable to reach him and used a cellphone application to track him to the hotel, where she found him in his vehicle.
The Broward County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday it still is investigating the death but doesn’'t suspect foul play.
An online virtual memorial for William Coddington lasted more than two hours, Ron Coddington said.
“For a father, you got to hear people you never knew talk about your son,” he said. “What a great guy he was.”
William Coddington is survived by his parents, a brother, and numerous relatives. The family asked that people consider donating in his name to,the Coronavirus Support Fund for Nurses at floridanurse.org.
“Rest in peace my love. You were my nursing brother,” friend Skye Alexander wrote April 27 on William's obituary tribute webpage. “Your heart was so big and your smile brightened the room. My heart hurts but I know you are in a better place.”
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.