East Texas nurse dies after contracting COVID-19
Family says John Cooke was a dedicated nurse who loved his job
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - John Cooke’s family says he enjoyed the simple things in life, like spending time with family, playing guitar, and his job as a nurse at UT Health East Texas in Tyler.
“He was just a good guy,” John’s son, Joshua, said.
Cooke worked for Van ISD for almost 25 years, but eventually decided to follow a new dream.
“One day he decided that he needed to go do what he really wanted to do. He needed to be a nurse because that’s what he always wanted to be,” Cooke’s son said.
At 50 years old, Cooke went back to school to fulfill that dream, but just as he was starting his new career, COVID-19 hit. His son, Joshua, says his dad knew what was coming.
“He really felt like there was going to be a pandemic before even, like, those words were being said,” he said.
While he didn’t work in the COVID-19 unit at the hospital, Joshua says his dad did come into contact with COVID-19 patients at work and was concerned he would get the virus and spread it to his family.
“He was going to buy a camper so that he could stay out in the camper away from us because he was scared he was going to bring it in here. He was taking it so serious, and he still got it,” Cooke said.
The COVID-19 diagnosis came on July 13. While there’s no way to confirm where he got the virus, Joshua says in the beginning, his dad’s symptoms were mild and he was feeling optimistic that he would be back to normal soon.
“He circled his calendar in his room when he could go back to work and get back on the front lines,” Cooke said.
But shortly after that, things took a turn. John was taken to the same hospital he worked at, and was hooked up to a ventilator.
“We were only allowed two updates a day on each shift from a nurse,” Cooke said.
Joshua says his dad had good days and bad days, but as time went on, things weren’t looking good. On Monday, some of John’s family got to do something most families never get ─ the opportunity to see their dad in the hospital.
“Myself, my mom, my sister, and his sister, my dad’s sister, were able to go see him one last time. They moved him to a room that had been disinfected. We had to gear up in PPE and we were allowed 10 minutes to hold his hand and to talk to him,” Cooke said.
Around 7 on Monday night, at 55 years old, John Cooke died.
When asked whether he felt like the hospital had failed his father, he had mixed feelings.
“Yes. I am thankful and appreciate that they helped take care of him, but the lack of PPE, and the risk they asked them to take, was too much,” Cooke said.
In a statement a UT Health spokesperson says, “Our top priority is the safety of our caregivers and our patients. We maintain sufficient testing supplies, PPE (personal protective equipment) and staff to ensure we’re able to provide our patients with the care they need while keeping caregivers safe. Our system follows CDC guidelines for PPE requirements and our caregivers have access to the PPE needed for their specific situation. There are processes in place for caregivers to request PPE, and caregivers are not denied PPE that is necessary to do their job. We follow mask-use guidance published by the CDC and the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration as well as standard decontamination methods.
Now, John’s wife of 36 years, two kids, and four grand kids are preparing to say their final goodbyes.
“And he always said, ‘Josh, we’re going to get through this.’ I don’t know how yet, but we’ll figure it out,” Cooke said.
John Cooke’s funeral will be held Friday in Van.
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