Coronavirus Chicago: UIC surgery tech on verge of retirement dies from COVID-19

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A surgery technician at UIC Hospital died from COVID-19 just days before he was scheduled to retire.

Juan Martinez turned 60 this month and was about to celebrate his 33rd wedding anniversary to his wife Martha. He was set to retire from UIC Hospital Thursday after 34 years in health care.

"He would put a smile on your face," said his daughter, Angela. "He had this calmness to him. He had these beautiful green eyes. You could just find peace having a conversation with my dad."
He planned to spend time with his two grandkids and celebrate his youngest daughter graduating college. But all of that came to a crashing halt after he was diagnosed with COVID19.

"When we went to go get tested, that's when they said, 'You don't look well, we're going to send you to the emergency room,'" said Angela Martinez, Juan's daughter.

A proud Army vet, and a dedicated pastor, Martinez went on to work as a surgical technologist, spending 34 years at UIC Hospital.

"He was ready to walk out of UIC with his hands up in the air," Angela Martinez said. "I could imagine him doing this little funny dance. He was ready."

His only son, Juan Martinez, Jr., followed his father's career path, working the same job at the same hospital. And at the same time, they fell ill.

"We knew that could be a possibility," Angela Martinez said. "We were afraid that they would get positive results, but more afraid of the outcome."

Martinez Sr. did have underlying health issues, including diabetes. Working in healthcare, he knew the seriousness of the virus, but leaned heavily on his faith. He did his best to stay positive, knowing his life was in God's hands.
"He encouraged us not to worry, that God is in control and that everything else could happen, but the most important thing was our relationship with Christ," Angela Martinez said.

He passed away on Monday and the bad news didn't end there. His 75-year-old mother-in-law would test positive too, along with his wife and daughter Angela.

Angela's grandmother is now in the hospital trying to fight this virus while she and her mother are on the mend. It's been a trying month for their family.

"It's scary, it's scary because this thing can you know can take your loved one in a matter of days and in a matter of weeks," she said. "My dad started with symptoms April 10 and we're not even at the end of April and my dad's gone."

Angela said she could not be more proud of her father and what he instilled in his family: faith, love, strength, and determination.

In addition to his 34 years as UIC, Martinez was a longtime pastor. Shortly before getting sick, he posted a spiritual message about the pandemic on social media.

"One of his last words in the Facebook Live is, if we don't see each other here, we'll see each other in heaven," Juan Martinez Jr. said.

Martinez also told people to stay calm and not worry because God is in control.

"He told us to smile and to have hope in life," Angela Martinez said. "'We'll get through this, chin up,' he said. 'Chin up.'"
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