Philamena Belone, 44, a devoted teacher, mother, and grandmother is the latest beloved educator to lose her life as a result of COVID-19
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country has lost so many beloved educators. Some of them continued to teach in person, despite the ongoing health crisis while others were offered the opportunity to do so via Zoom. But regardless, all of them prioritized their mission to teach our children no matter what. One of the country’s most recent losses is Philamena Belone, a mother and grandmother in New Mexico, who continued virtual teaching even after being hospitalized for COVID-19 related pneumonia.
CNN reports that Belone, 44, initially started experiencing mild symptoms on November 12. However, due to a persistent cough, she landed in the emergency room. It was then that she was diagnosed with the virus as well as pneumonia. During her three day hospitalization she was given oxygen, and left to return home with an oxygen tank and mask.
“I know that she kept wanting to go home to teach. She wanted to be with the kids that she was teaching,” Phillip Belone, her brother, told CNN. “She was actually on oxygen teaching when she would have been in the hospital, but her condition got to the point where she couldn’t physically breathe.”
Her goal was to teach until the end of the term. And, not only did she teach behaviorally challenged students on Zoom during the day, but at night taught children who didn’t have access to internet over the phone. In fact, her brother believes she was teaching a whopping 70 hours per week. However, after two weeks of her return, her symptoms began to worsen and she was taken back to the Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque on November 28, then put on a ventilator on December 6.
“Prior to that she was a healthy and vibrant, good soul who we never expected would be in this situation,” Belone said. “We didn’t know that it came to such a dramatic circumstance until after she was physically admitted the second time. I was under the impression that she was still going to be fine and the symptoms weren’t that bad. She hid all of that very well from all of us.”
Doctors found blood clots in her lungs and discovered she had a collapsed lung. Her kidneys started failing and she needed dialysis. “I saw her at her worst but understood that she fought her heart out and she was ready to rest,” her brother said, revealing the family made the difficult decision to remove her from the ventilator.
She leaves behind three children and one grandchild, as well as her parents, brother and sister.
The late teacher, her family, and many of her students are part of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, a community of 173,667 hit hard by the virus. Earlier this year it surpassed New York and New Jersey for the highest per capita infection rate. As of Wednesday, the Navajo Department of Health reported 20,095 cases and 731 deaths .
The family has started a GoFundMe page to cover the costs of Philamena’s funeral, meeting their goal in 48 hours. Her brother hopes that her story will inspire others. “Philamena’s story is not unique. We should be focusing on all the stories, all of the hundreds of thousands of people, all of the millions of people in our country who have been affected by this,” he said.
“She would have wanted everyone to love one another and not judge one another, to see the best in everyone and to do whatever they could to make the world a better place,” he said. “That was her legacy.”