An Ohio dad is currently fighting for his life on a ventilator after he volunteered to travel to the Washington, D.C. area to assist in the fight against COVID-19, only to contract the illness weeks later.
Since May 6, Michael Rhodes has been battling the coronavirus in the hospital, where he was working on the frontlines as a nurse to support his family, according to a Facebook post written by his fiancée Amber Wachenschwanz.
Rhodes, 46 — whose GoFundMe campaign has raised over $28,000 — initially traveled from his Columbus, Ohio home at the beginning of April after the coronavirus pandemic forced his non-essential business to close and he forfeited his salary to his workers, Wachenschwanz, 40, explained.
After weeks of "working long hours on the COVID unit" with "only a certain allowance of PPE," Rhodes fell ill. He has since been intubated in the ICU hundreds of miles away from home, while his fiancée continues to spread the word about his struggle.
"What we wanted to get out there was his story," Wachenschwanz told NBC News. "How somebody goes away from their family, fighting hard to help people. Now he's sick and far away from home."
Prior to the pandemic, Rhodes was working as a part-time nurse at Grant Medical Center in Columbus, along with owning a commercial kitchen hood cleaning company called Ion Fire Protection, NBC News reported.
Despite being employed as a nurse part-time, Wachenschwanz told the outlet the hospital "would not guarantee [Rhodes] any hours" because "his position… is considered contingent."
With no other income, Rhodes decided to take a job at UM Prince George's Hospital Center in Maryland, where he started by treating non-coronavirus patients, according to NBC News.
"He knew these hard-hit areas of the pandemic needed help and he could help," Wachenschwanz told the outlet, noting that her fiancé later moved to another job at a makeshift hospital to treat coronavirus patients.
Things seemed to be going well there for Rhodes until April 27 when he started experiencing back pain, Wachenschwanz explained in her Facebook post. He thought nothing of it, but the following day, he felt exhausted and had a fever, she said.
"Every day we spoke, he told me he was feeling terrible," Wachenschwanz told NBC News of Rhodes, who has a 2-year-old son named Bode.
By April 30, the Ohio father learned he had tested positive for COVID-19 and started quarantining at the hotel where he was temporarily living, according to the outlet.
Meanwhile, Wachenschwanz had to break the news to her 9-year-old twins, Chase and Cade, who she said instantly started to think of the worst-case scenarios.
"When the twins found out Michael had COVID, their first thing was, 'Is Michael going to die?'" she recalled to NBC News. "They're really concerned about him."
According to Wachenschwanz's Facebook post, Rhodes remained at the hotel for as long as he could until his oxygen levels started dropping. When he finally went to the hospital, he was instantly admitted to the ICU.
After only one night, Rhodes was transferred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore when his condition worsened, according to NBC News. He has been there ever since on the ventilator, which Wachenschwanz noted in a post that Rhodes was not a fan of.
"Our fighter, stubborn guy can’t seem to leave that damn breathing tube alone and pulled it out twice yesterday," she wrote in a post on May 13.
Most recently, Wachenschwanz said Rhodes was showing signs of improvement, though he was growing increasingly frustrated.
"He’s fully awake and grumpy. If you can imag[in]e, he’s going through hell. Tubes, tests, fighting to breathe and heal and then missing home terribly," she wrote on Thursday. "He writes on the whiteboard how he wants the tube out and restraints off. But his body is not ready at this time. Prayers for his patience."
"Yesterday as the therapist was leaving the room. She said 'I’ll be back tomorrow and we will work even harder'" Wachenschwanz added. "And I was told Michael 'flipped her off'… it brought a smile to my face! Classic Michael, love it, fight babe!!"
Those interested in donating to Rhodes' GoFundMe to help ease the financial burden of his medical bills can do so here.
As of Thursday, there have been over 1.4 million cases and at least 84,938 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the The New York Times.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.
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