UPPER EAST SIDE — More than 100 of New York’s finest clapped and cheered Officer Rosa Rodriguez — a mother of four who was critically injured in a Coney Island blaze that killed her partner last month— as she left New York Hospital Monday afternoon.
Rodriguez was given a grim prognosis after the fire destroyed the lining of her lungs. However, she showed a determination to live and eventually to return to police work.
“Today is a happy and exciting day for her family and her police family as well,” said her commanding officer Carlos Valdez. “It’s a huge, huge, morale boost.”
Rodriguez, who was assigned to Police Service Area 1, and her partner, Dennis Guerra, raced up to the 13th floor of a Coney island project to investigate a mattress fire on April 6 when the two were overcome with heavy smoke. Guerra, a father of four from Far Rockaway, died from this injuries. He was honored in a ceremony at police headquarters a few days after the blaze.
Many officers Monday handed Rodriguez flowers, which she passed along to two of her daughters who walked in front of her wheelchair. Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton greeted the officer before she left the hospital.
Doctors feared the worst when they discovered that the lining inside Rodriguez’s lungs was destroyed by the toxic fumes in the building, said Dr. Palmer Bessey, the hospital’s associate director of the burn center.
She was placed in the ICU for a month and was hooked up to a breathing machine.
“We estimated she had a 45 to 50 percent statistical chance of dying,” the doctor said.
Rodriguez, 36, is still weak from her injuries but is eager be out on patrol, according to her commanding officer.
“She was able to speak, just a whisper,” recalled Valdez. “She said she was ready to go out on patrol. I told her to take it easy.”
Doctors said she was an upbeat patient who had a positive attitude and would always be ready to work as soon as she work up. They believe that Rodriguez will be physically able to work when she recovers from her injuries, Bessey said.
Among those in attendance was Guerra's family, who visited her often in the ICU. They wore pins with his face on them as they left the hospital.
Marcell Dockery, the 16-year-old who lived in the fire building and has admitted to setting a mattress on fire because he was bored. He has been charged with murder, assault and arson, and is awaiting trial.