I have never seen so many dead in my life

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – Their last breath is pain. Rublas Ruiz has seen too many of them – the last hostage of 17 men and women who died from the coronavirus.

A 41-year-old ICU nurse at Miami’s Kendall Regional Medical Center, Ruiz has witnessed the desperate, pleading, wide-eyed, barely there whip.

‘The fear in their eyes when they can’t get enough air. They are so scared, ‘he says calmly. “Her eyes are big, desperate to get the oxygen and that makes me so sad.”

He sits on her bed, grabs her hand, stretches her cheek and prays. Everything to touch her.

“I know you can not talk, but I will talk to you,” he tells her. “You have to be positive, you have to have faith that God will get you out of here.”

Often he ends up snooping in the bathroom. It’s a rare moment only when he can dismiss the brave face.

Then he splashes water on his face and returns to the floor that has been his work home since March. While other nurses run in and out of the COVID-19 ICU unit to limit their exposure to the deadly virus, he is asked to remain permanent.

It’s his calling.

‘I’m here for her. This is what I was meant to do, ”says Ruiz.

“A lot of nurses are gone. They do not want to tackle it, they are scared, they are scared, they see other people getting infected. “

Miami-Dade County has been the epicenter of the state’s outbreak since March with about 2,000 deaths – more than 20 percent of the state’s total. When Florida cases increased again this summer, Miami hospitals became overcrowded, especially in the second half of July.

For Ruiz, his routine is the same every day. He prays in the car on the way to the hospital: ‘Dear God, this is your day, put me in your hands and help me do what you want me to do. This is your creation and let me help you. ‘

Then, he says, “I take a deep breath as I get out of the car and get to work.”


As many as 10 patients died in one week in his ward.

At one point he started counting, “and then I stopped doing that because there were so many.”

At the moment he can not stop thinking about the 45-year-old father who has been intubated for more than two weeks, “look at this young man almost my age, just four years older than me …”

His voice runs away. “We know he will not make it.”

The hardest part is to see them die alone.

The role of family play has almost become more important than his responsibility to nurses. He tried to distract an elderly patient from searching for virus treatments on the Internet by asking him questions about his job as an inspector for the Motor Vehicles department.

Ruiz could feel the retired man’s fear: “He looked really, really sad and then made me cry that day too.” His condition deteriorated in less than a week, and he died.

He tries to connect patients as much as possible with videos via video chat. But in the end, he is the one who testifies to her last breath.

“I have never seen so many deaths in my life, in a week or a month,” he says. “The room becomes empty and another patient enters.”


On the way home he can not stop thinking about the patients he leaves behind. Will he see them tomorrow?

He steps into a wide dressing room in the garage, picks up his hospital laundry and returns straight to the shower, praying that he will not infect his wife and 10-year-old daughter. He’s not trying to think about it. It’s too much to carry.

The tween is off, isolated from friends, missing school and deeply disappointed at the cancellation of an Ariana Grande concert that would have been the highlight of her year.

Ruiz tries to separate his grim work when he’s home, but it sucks inside. He relied heavily on the positive energy of his wife of six years, Yaneth.

“He’s been pretty depressed,” she says. “We have good communication. I try to listen to him. I know he’s stressed. ”

His wife lost her job as a hairdresser, so Rublas takes extra time to make up for her lost income. The family has taken over fishing as a hobby, casting their reels from a bridge, catching snapper and enjoying the rest of being outside and together.

Back in April, Yaneth prepared a special birthday dinner for him at home. But as he sat at the table, the thought of losing so many patients overwhelmed him. And he broke down in tears.


Associated Press reporter Adriana Licon-Gomez contributed to Miami.