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New Jersey ER doctor died in his husband's arms just one week after developing coronavirus symptoms

Coronavirus takes deadly toll in the U.S.
Coronavirus takes deadly toll as hospitals become overwhelmed 04:33

A New Jersey emergency room doctor has died just one week after he developed coronavirus symptoms, reports. Dr. Frank Gabrin was a two-time cancer survivor who worked at East Orange General Hospital, his husband, Arnold Vargas told the local publication. On March 24, Gabrin woke up with chest pain and other symptoms. On Tuesday, he succumbed to his illness and died in his husband's arms.

"He had a lot of coughing and two days ago he was very sick," Vargas told on Wednesday. Gabrin was not tested for COVID-19, according to, but had treated patients with symptoms. The 60-year-old thought he had his symptoms under control and tried to recover at home. 

"He told me, 'I can handle this. I survived cancer and this is just the coronavirus,'" Vargas said.

The couple lives in New York City but Gabrin worked at both East Orange General Hospital and a hospital on Long Island, Vargas said.

Vargas said when his husband woke up on Tuesday, he said, "Baby, I can't breathe." Vargas said he called the NYPD and was placed on hold. He said it took 30 minutes for help to arrive.

A photo from Dr. Gabrin's Facebook page. His last post was about being positive and kind during the coronavirus pandemic. Facebook/Dr. Frank Gabrin

"He died in my hands," Vargas said. 

Gabrin wanted to continue working for as long as he could since the emergency rooms are short-staffed, reports. "He never complained about anything, he just wanted to work and help people," Vargas said.

Now, Vargas says he too has mild symptoms of the virus. In a live interview on CNN's Cuomo Prime Time, Vargas wept as he spoke about his husband. 

"He loved to help people," Vargas said through tears, barely able to speak.

"I know you're heartbroken. But you know what, people need to see what is being taken from us by this virus," anchor Chris Cuomo told Vargas. (Cuomo is also home sick with the virus, he revealed this week.)

Following the news of Gabrin's death, many friends have shared remembrances and tributes to him. His friend Debra Vaselech Lyons told Cuomo that Gabrin believed "it's not about the outcome, you don't get to save every patient, but it's about what you do with the outcome."

"He lost his life needlessly because if he'd had the equipment — he's a professional, he knew how to protect himself," Lyons said. Many hospitals are becoming overcrowded and staff are struggling with a shortage of protective gear like N95 face masks for employees.

East Orange General Hospital confirmed Garbin's death in a statement to CBS News. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Gabrin's family and friends, and also with all our frontline caregivers who are dedicated to serving our community during this unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak," the statement read. 

"We are committed to ensuring the safety of our patients, staff and physicians. We currently have sufficient staffing, supplies and equipment — including N95 respirators and face masks — on hand to care for patients," it continued. 

Gabrin's friend J.D. Polk wrote a tribute to him on Facebook."Dr. Frank Gabrin, friend and emergency medicine colleague for many years and most importantly a good soul, posted this view of the NY ambulances waiting outside his ER two weeks ago," Polk wrote, sharing Gabrin's photo of ambulances outside of the hospital. "We lost Frank today to COVID-19. Frank was an outstanding doc and often a bright light in the darkness. He will be greatly missed."

Many people are now sharing Gabrin's last social media post. "Don't forget about these tools people! They can be the most powerful drugs we have to use in this pandemic!" Gabrin wrote, sharing an image of a word cloud that included positive words like "tolerance," "empathy," "good will," "human dignity," and "open heart."

His post is now flooded with comments from friends and strangers. CBS News has reached out to people close to Dr. Gabrin for more information.  

Don’t forget about these tools people! They can be the most powerful drugs we have to use in this pandemic!

Posted by Dr. Frank Gabrin on Sunday, March 22, 2020
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