Chicago surgical tech, 60, due to retire in days, dies after testing positive for coronavirus

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A Chicago surgical technologist, dedicated to helping patients on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, was just days away from retiring when he tested positive for the disease and died Monday, his family said.

Juan Martinez, 60, was set to retire Thursday from the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago after 34 years as a surgical tech, the Chicago Tribune reported. But his devotion to helping others kept him working through the pandemic.

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“My dad was a very dedicated man to work,” his son, Juan Martinez Jr., told the paper. “He was so passionate.”

Martinez worked as a surgical tech for 34 years and was set to retire Thursday. He died days earlier after testing positive for the coronavirus after working on the front lines of the outbreak.

Martinez worked as a surgical tech for 34 years and was set to retire Thursday. He died days earlier after testing positive for the coronavirus after working on the front lines of the outbreak. (Juan Martinez / Facebook)

A surgical technologist is part of an operating room team, preparing the room before surgery, and assisting surgeons, anesthesiologists, registered nurses and others.

Martinez was looking forward to traveling with his wife and spending more time with his grandchildren in retirement, said Martinez Jr., who followed in his father’s footsteps and worked alongside him at the hospital.

Martinez was a pastor at his church and had served three years in the U.S. Army before joining the Illinois National Guard, his family said. He served his country for 21 years and received multiple awards.

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Martinez began planning for retirement after turning 60 on April 14. But three days later, both he and his son felt ill. Both tested positive for coronavirus.

“He just didn’t make it,” Martinez Jr. said.

The family is making funeral arrangements.

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“He was so proud of his role in the health care field, often mistaken as a doctor because he was so knowledgeable,” Martinez’s eldest daughter, Angela, wrote on a GoFundMe Page. “My dad is the smartest man I know. He was a great mentor to all of his co-workers, and he was an extraordinary teacher.”