Mark McConnaughey was a guy you could count on for anything, according to his long-time friend and doctor Mike Zaruba.

“If someone was in need, he would drop whatever he was doing, even if he needed to get what he was doing done, and come help,” Zaruba said.

KETV reports two weeks ago, when the 57-year-old needed care beyond what the Nemaha County Hospital could provide, Zaruba, a board-certified ER doctor, said they could not find any help available in Nebraska.

“At best count, we called 23 different hospitals,” Zaruba said. “It was just phone call after phone call where you’re being rejected.”

Zaruba said they found a hospital in Des Moines after several hours.

He said McConnaughey was flown there, but he died 18 hours later.

“I, never as a physician, thought we’d be transferring our patients out of state. That we wouldn’t be able to take care our own Nebraskans,” Zaruba said.

Zaruba is left wondering if finding a hospital with an ICU room earlier could have saved his friend.

“But I can tell you it didn’t help the situation. That I know 100%,” Zaruba said.

He said McConnaughey had a severe shoulder injury that got worse. Zaruba believes McConnaughey may have also had an asymptomatic COVID-19 infection that played a role.

“That triggered an inflammatory response through his body that cause multi-organ failure,” Zaruba said.

McConnaughey was never tested for COVID-19 but showed many of the signs for COVID according to Zaruba. He said McConnaughey was fully vaccinated.

McConnaughey died Aug. 18.

In the days that followed, all Nebraska hospitals started limiting some non-emergency surgeries.

The state is also re-opening a hospital patient transfer center to help find available beds and to better manage hospital capacity.

“These cases have been wake-up calls to take more direct movement to take pressure off our hospitals,” Zaruba said.

Zaruba hopes people will realize hospitals face a dire situation.

He encourages people to do what they can to help out, such as get vaccinated and wear masks.

“I am not a big believer in mandates, but I am a big believer in doing what’s right,” Zaruba said. “Help our hospital systems, help our nurses, help our staff so we don’t have to call 23 hospitals when it’s your loved one that’s in the ER that we’re trying to find a bed for.”