Hospital caregivers rally around family of nurse who suddenly passed away
The holidays mean different things for different people.
For some, they can be a time of joy and celebration with family and friends. Others are consumed with the stress of gift-giving expectations or family tension. For those who have recently lost a loved one, holidays are often a time of sadness.
For the Rodriguez family and the nurses and physicians at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., who knew Tiffanie Rodriguez, that last one is more likely the case.
Tiffanie Rodriguez suddenly passed away from a brain aneurysm this past October at the young age of 46.
“Tiffanie was truly just a special nurse on our unit,” says Paula Goff, an Advocate Nurse and clinical manager on the oncology unit at Lutheran General.
“The holidays won’t be the same without her here. Just thinking about it makes me feel so sad. We all miss her dearly.”
Tiffanie had worked at Lutheran for 22 years. Goff worked with her as a peer on the night shift and later became her boss. The hospital was a special place for Tiffanie as she and her husband, Joe, met while they both worked at Lutheran. They had three beautiful children during her time there: 10-year- old Emma, 12-year-old Andrew and 15-year-old Ayden.
She was known by colleagues as a ray of light. That person who never said a negative thing about anyone or anything.
“I considered her not only a colleague and friend, but family,” says Goff. “She was one of those people who everyone wanted to be around because she made you feel good about you. She was always smiling and had that persona of just enjoying life, and it really uplifted everyone around her.”
And not only was Tiffanie well loved by her fellow nurses and physicians, but she was also adored by her patients.
“As a nurse on nights, Tiffanie understood that patients were often afraid to go to sleep. Many wanted to open up their emotional door to someone, and as their nurse, Tiffanie was never afraid to open that door and be the supportive person they really needed as part of their care,” explains Goff.
“She was famous for her WBC celebratory dance, giving patients hope as they waited for their white cell count to return,” Goff says.
“I would round on the patients, and they would often describe the dance ceremony at the bedside. Every patient that would talk about it and their experiences with her had a huge smile upon their face. She had this way of connecting with them that really affected them in a positive way. Seeing it was inspiring.”
Tiffanie was also highly skilled when it came to the technical aspects of her job. She was certified in oncology and bone marrow transplant, the latter a rare certification that less than 300 nurses across the U.S. receive.
Needless to say, for the oncology unit at Lutheran General, losing such a skilled and capable nurse who was also their colleague and friend so suddenly has been devastating. Not only did they not get a chance to say goodbye, but the group has struggled knowing that Tiffanie Rodriguez was the main supporter of her family.
“As their oldest son, Ayden, grew up, it became more difficult for Tiffanie to take care of him,” says Goff. “Ayden is autistic and needed a little extra support. At some point, Joe left Lutheran to stay at home to help out with the kids. When we lost Tiffanie, the whole team here just knew we had to do something to help.”
And help they did. The whole team has rallied around the family to support them in any way they could. They reached out to a friend who started a care page, and within a week, they had raised almost $40,000 for the family.
But with the holidays in full swing, they felt like they had to do even more. So the unit made it their mission to ensure the Rodriguez children were taken care of when it came to Christmas gifts. The team bought and wrapped dozens of gifts for Emma, Andrew and Ayden in hopes of bringing a little joy to their home this first tough holiday without their amazing mom.
“All we can do right now is be there and be supportive and try to make it a little easier,” says Goff. “The world lost an amazing loving soul. Tiffanie was an organ donor and saved or improved a total of 16 lives when she died. I keep saying whoever got her heart is the luckiest person of all because she truly had the biggest heart. She showed love to everyone.”
To view the Rodriguez’s care page, click here.
About the Author
Jacqueline Hughes is a former manager, media relations at Advocate Aurora Health. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.