A real-life Soprano went from New Jersey gang member to musical star after videos of him singing to patients at the hospital where he worked went viral.
Enrique Rodriquez, 28, from Central Jersey, now works as a phlebotomist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and is widely renowned for his musical talent.
He began posting videos on his TikTok account, which now boasts over 80,000 followers, of him singing and playing the piano for critically ill patients in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
He left behind a history of violence and crime to help people who are suffering after turning to religion.
He said: “I found God at an extremely troubling period in my life and he showed himself to me when I needed him most.
“I know that God wanted me to care for people just as he cared for me, and the hospital was the perfect place to do that.”
It was 2009 when Rodriguez first got involved with gangs after his eldest brother went to prison.
The loss of his brother to the jail system meant that Rodriquez felt disconnected from his loved ones, and he went out searching for what he called “the wrong kind of family.”
He became a ‘blood member’ of a local gang for three years after being misled by the idea of joining a strong brotherhood and making quick and easy money.
He explained: “The gang lifestyle is pure manipulation.
“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.”
The turning point for Rodriguez came when he hurt the “wrong person” and a rival gang came after his mother.
There were two attempts made on his mother’s life before the aggressors were arrested, and Rodriguez believes it is down to God that his mother is still alive today.
He added: “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.”
Rodriguez began working in the hospital in 2012 as a housekeeper in order to get a job there as quickly as possible.
A year later, he completed training to become a patient carer in the ICU, and now works as a phlebotomist ferrying COVID-19 and blood samples from different laboratories.
He has worked at the hospital for nine years now, and during his career, he discovered that he possessed a raw musical talent .
Unable to read sheet music, Rodriguez taught himself to play both the piano and the guitar, and practiced by playing in front of several patients on the ward.
Sadly, Barbara Freud, a cancer patient who was one of Rodriguez’s first listeners, passed away whilst he was on holiday, but he will always remember the musical bond they shared.
He now makes regular visits to patients’ bedsides and uses TikTok to live stream his performances to tens of thousands of viewers.
Rodriquez plans to grow his following by making more videos and spreading love and happiness through his music.
He said: “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.
“There was a time where I was singing to a patient in a coma and he woke up for the first time in weeks.
“It was a true miracle.”
Next week, Rodriguez will travel to Puerto Rico with his church group to give aid to disadvantaged children, and there’s no doubt his guitar will be making the trip too.
You can enjoy his musical talent on his TikTok channel @thesingingphlebotomist