In the early evening of June 8, more than 100 mourners from North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale gathered across the street at Manor Park to light candles and share memories of a beloved colleague who fell to COVID-19.
Pinpoints of candlelight flickered in the dusk as phlebotomist and pastor Larrydean Goodridge, who had prayed for so many others over the years, became the subject of other people’s prayers.
“There were so many people depending on her,” her daughter Peaches Goodridge, 27, of Mesa, Ariz., said. “She didn’t even have it in her to think this was going to happen.”
Goodridge’s death on June 1 is clouded by unknowns, including whether she and co-workers were being provided with adequate personal protective equipment at North Memorial when she contracted the virus, likely in mid-April. It’s also unknown whether she caught the virus at work. An investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is ongoing.
North Memorial management told the Star Tribune that Goodridge had no known exposure to COVID-19 from a patient or co-worker. And while there’s no way to know for sure whether Goodridge caught the virus at work, the timeline of how she got sick doesn’t support a conclusion that she got it at work, a hospital spokeswoman said.
A planting for Goodridge was placed in the hospital’s memorial garden, following the official memorial that was held for her inside the building 10 days after the vigil.
Co-workers say Goodridge believed she caught the virus at work in mid-April, when she first went out sick. Churches and businesses were closed, and there was a stay-at-home order in effect. Meanwhile, she was working close to COVID-19 patients, drawing blood while wearing only a loose-fitting surgical mask covered by a face shield, instead of a tight-fitting N95 respirator.
The president of Goodridge’s union said that immediately after her death, the hospital reversed its prior policy of not providing phlebotomists and other non-nursing staff with protective N95 respirators.
“Individuals were not permitted to wear N95 masks, including their own N95 masks, in the department prior to this,” said Jamie Gulley, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota president. “I don’t want to minimize the difficult decisions that were happening. But asking someone to draw blood without appropriate PPE [personal protective equipment], and doing that knowingly, was never the right decision.”
North Memorial spokeswoman Katy Sullivan said the hospital has followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s evolving guidelines for PPE throughout the pandemic in response to supply shortages. She said the broader distribution of the protective masks to lab workers at the hospital was not spurred by what happened to Goodridge.
“Changes to the PPE used by lab staff, including plans for fit-testing, were underway prior to Larrydean’s death and were not a result of her tragic passing,” Sullivan said in an e-mail Friday. “Due to improvements in our supply chain in late May, we began to move to broader usage of N95 respirators by our direct patient care teams.”
Minnesota has seen 46,204 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 since early March, including 4,355 in health care workers like nurses, physicians, nursing-home workers and laboratory staff.
On Sunday, the state added 737 new cases of the illness, and three deaths from the viral respiratory condition. All told, 1,541 people in Minnesota have died with a positive test result and COVID-19 listed as their official cause of death, as was the case with Goodridge.
Goodridge was born in 1974 in Monrovia, Liberia, and immigrated to the United States in 2000 to flee Liberia’s Second Civil War. She eventually settled in Brooklyn Park and became a specialist at drawing blood at North Memorial, often working the night shift.
Colleagues say she was known as “one-stick Larrydean” for her ability to quickly draw blood in a single attempt from even the most challenging blood vessels.
“She worked basically almost full time at the hospital, night shift, which is hard to do. And in the morning she would go and pick up her grandchildren, after working all night long,” North Memorial phlebotomist Nicole Mays said.
Gulley said Goodridge was eligible for workers’ compensation for contracting COVID-19 on the job because of a change in state law in April that says peace officers, including paramedics and health care workers, who come down with the virus are presumed to have caught it at work, unless that’s specifically rebutted by an employer or insurer.
When Goodridge became ill, she had to make changes at home to stay socially distanced, including sending the grandkids away. Peaches, who moved out of state a year ago, said no family members close to her mother ever came down with COVID-19, except for one relative who tested positive two weeks after Goodridge died.
Goodridge’s husband, Nathaniel, declined to comment for this story, but Peaches said her mother’s health declined quickly. The day before she died, Goodridge was coughing and sounded on the phone like she was in pain. The next day, Peaches learned her mother was sent to the clinic to be seen, but was moved to the hospital in an ambulance.
Once there, Goodridge was put on a noninvasive breathing machine called a BiPAP and died after several hours in the hospital where she worked, according to the death certificate. Cause of death: “Respiratory complications of COVID-19 infection.”
A woman of faith
In addition to being a caregiver at work and home, Goodridge was widely known as a woman of God.
Though she was a pastor with a church in Robbinsdale called Faith Embassy City of Rescue, Goodridge’s main religious outreach in recent years was her daily prayer line, Light Full House Gospel Prayer Ministry, her daughter said.
On the prayer line, which began at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday and ran for an hour, Larrydean Goodridge and other pastors would preach, followed by prayers for listeners and others. Peaches said some people learned of her mother’s death after they stopped getting the text reminders for the prayer line that Larrydean was known to send for every call, without fail.
On the prayer line, she would pray for others to get well and stay well, even at the end when she had her own fatal case of COVID-19 brewing. Peaches said her mother did add her own name to the list of those needing prayers.
“The only thing is, she was the last person on her list,” Peaches said. “She would call every one of those names, and then she would say her name.”