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Nurse struggling with COVID-19 trauma found dead in his car

William Coddington, 32, was treating COVID-19 patients as a nurse when he died of a suspected overdose. He'd been battling an opioid addiction since his early 20s.
William Coddington, 32, was treating COVID-19 patients as a nurse when he died of a suspected overdose. He'd been battling an opioid addiction since his early 20s. Reuters

A nurse on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic was found dead in his car in late April after battling trauma related to his work.

William Coddington, 32, became a nurse in 2018 and began seeing COVID-19 patients showing up in his West Palm Beach, Fla., intensive care unit in March.

As someone recovering from an opioid addiction battle since his early 20s, Coddington found it hard to be separated from his 12-step recovery meetings, his mom told Reuters.

READ MORE: Family of N.Y.C. doctor who died by suicide says coronavirus ‘altered’ her brain

Coddington spoke to his friend Robert Marks on April 24, the night before he died.

“Don’t take unnecessary risks, but hang in there,” Marks texted him, Reuters says.

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The next morning, the nurse was found dead in his car in a hotel parking lot after his mom geo-tracked his phone to discover he wasn’t at the West Palm Beach hospital where he worked, the Guardian reports.

Click to play video 'How COVID-19 is taking a toll on the mental health of front-line workers' How COVID-19 is taking a toll on the mental health of front-line workers
How COVID-19 is taking a toll on the mental health of front-line workers

“He couldn’t meet with his sponsor,” she told the publication. “His friends … nobody wanted to see him because he worked in a hospital, not even to sit six feet apart.”

His family suspects he succumbed to a drug overdose, but a spokeswoman for the Broward County medical examiner’s office said the case is still pending.

Various text messages from the weeks leading up to his death show just how much Coddington was struggling to reckon with the reality of the virus.

READ MORE: 11 million Canadians could experience ‘high levels of stress’ due to COVID-19, Health Canada says

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“We are running out of gowns. We are having people make makeshift face shields that end up snapping,” he wrote in one message.

The late nurse is said to have volunteered for the coronavirus unit because he thought he had a better chance of surviving the virus if he got it, given his young age, Reuters says.

On Wednesday, hundreds of his loved ones attended a virtual funeral.

— With files from Reuters

Are you or someone you know struggling with addiction? Here is a list of resources you can use to get help.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca