28-year-old Enrique Rodriquez almost lost himself to a life of crime and violence, but music and a job at his local hospital saved him.
Enrique Rodriquez, aged 28, was a "blood member" of a local gang in Central New Jersey for three years. However, a tragic incident involving a rival gang member and his mother motivated him to turn his life around. Ever since, he has been volunteering his time to sing to patients at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, where he works as a phlebotomist. When a video he posted of himself singing to his patients went viral, he became an inspiration to many. His story is now an example of what is possible when folks are given a second chance at life, Good News Network reports.
Rodriquez, who goes by the username Thesingingphlebotomist on TikTok, never expected to become an internet sensation overnight. Nonetheless, he has amassed over 80,000 followers on the social media platform after uploading a video of himself singing and playing the piano for critically ill patients in his hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. He has indeed come a long way from his life of crime and violence as a gang member, a journey that began in 2009 when Rodriguez first got involved with gangs after his eldest brother went to prison. He said he felt disconnected from his loved ones after he lost his brother to the country's inequitable jail system and therefore went out in search of what he called "the wrong kind of family."
Enrique Rodriguez, a healthcare worker who taught himself how to play the guitar and piano, loves bringing joy to his patients 💛 https://t.co/FIHMJTeNLE— Blavity News (@Blavity) August 17, 2021
Misled by the idea of strong brotherhood and making quick and easy money, Rodriquez became a "blood member" of a local gang. "The gang lifestyle is pure manipulation," he shared. "They make you feel like they care about you, that they’ve got your back that you’re family; but all they do is use you so they don’t have to get their hands dirty." It was only when he hurt the "wrong person" and a rival gang member tried to attack his mother twice that he decided to change things around. Thankfully, her aggressors were arrested and the young man found new meaning in his life.
This gang member-turned-hospital worker has skyrocketed to internet fame after videos of him singing to patients went viral pic.twitter.com/HKPEoATwPN— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 17, 2021
Rodriquez stated, "I have done a lot of bad things and mixed with a lot of bad people. I’m just grateful God looked out for me and my family. He has given me the opportunity to start a new life, and music is a huge part of that." He began working at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital as a housekeeper in 2012. Only a year later, he completed training to become a patient carer in the ICU. Today, he works as a phlebotomist ferrying COVID-19 and blood samples from different laboratories. He picked up his musical talents during the nine years he has spent working at the hospital. Unable to read sheet music and untrained, he taught himself to play both the piano and the guitar by practicing in front of several patients in the ward.
At present, he makes regular visits to patients’ bedsides and uses TikTok to live-stream his performances to tens of thousands of viewers. "There was a time where I was singing to a patient in a coma and he woke up for the first time in weeks," Rodriquez said. "It was a true miracle. I love what I do and I believe my purpose in this world is to help other people. When I’m singing to these patients I can feel the connection we have and it’s wonderful." Next week, the TikTok icon and star phlebotomist plans to travel to Puerto Rico with his church group to give aid to disadvantaged children. His guitar will surely accompany him.