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A 70-year-old came out of retirement to teach nursing. Then, she died of COVID.

Iris Meda wanted to do whatever she could to help out during the pandemic. So, she returned to nursing.

A 70-year-old came out of retirement to teach nursing. Then, she died of COVID.
Image Source: Twitter/ Maria_NBC5

In January, at 70 years, Iris Meda retired from her job as a nurse. Then, the ongoing public health crisis hit the United States, particularly affecting her adopted hometown of New York City. Instead of sitting back and watching as thousands succumbed to the novel disease, she decided to do what she could. Therefore, she put her nurse scrubs back on and began teaching nursing students who she believed would someday help battle the virus. For several months, she trained students at Collin College in suburban Dallas before contracting the virus herself in October. Last month, she died due to complications from the illness. In an interview with The Washington Post, her daughter Selene Meda-Schlamel reflected on Meda's life, legacy, and sacrifice.




"She felt like if she could gain momentum by teaching some of those basics, we could contain any virus," she said. "She wanted to do something that would make a difference." Though her mother was no longer a nurse on the frontlines, she did take a significant risk by going back onto the field in order to help educate future nurses in the middle of a pandemic. Meda had abandoned the plans she had hoped to carry out during her retirement—traveling with her husband John, reconnecting with her siblings, getting professional portraits taken, and riding in a convertible for the first time—for a greater cause.




Her daughter explained, "So when the pandemic hit and she had to go into isolation because of her age, it was difficult for her because she had all these plans. All she did was sit there and watch it and talk to everyone about what she was seeing. She was very well-informed." While she had spent some time as an informal consultant for her previous job, sharing advice on quarantining measures and monitoring students who fell ill, Meda wanted to do more. In April, the nurse thus applied to Collin College to teach high school juniors and seniors who were interested in nursing careers. She began teaching in August after the college had assured her that students would maintain a safe distance and wear masks.




However, president H Neil Matkin sent her an email informing her that she had come in contact on October 2 with a student who exhibited symptoms of the Coronavirus, including sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes. Everyone in her class had worn masks that day, but the lesson prevented them from practicing social distancing. On October 9, the student had tested positive. Less than a week later, on October 17, the nurse herself was admitted to the hospital. Meda-Schlamel shared, "She was hopeful that she would get out of it because her last words were ‘I’m going to fight. I’m New York strong.'"




Meda received two antibody transfusions as well as a dose of remdesivir as she battled pneumonia as a result of coming in contact with the student. Doctors had to intubate her on October 28, and she, unfortunately, died of heart failure on November 14. She is one of the hundreds of healthcare professionals who risked and lost their lives to Coronavirus during the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says at least 232,497 health-care workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 836 have died.




The 70-year-old was a native of Charleston, South Carolina. She moved to Harlem when she was seven years old and did not have the opportunity to finish high school. Nonetheless, Meda completed her GED and got a degree in nursing from the City College of New York in 1984. She went on to work as a nurse at Rikers Island Correctional Facility and the Lew Sterrett Justice Center in Dallas after moving to north Texas. "For her, this was also a service to her country, being able to usher nursing assistants into the work field during a pandemic when they are most needed," her daughter affirmed. "I hope that students realize the compromise that their teachers are putting themselves in and recognize that they are themselves heroes."



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