In late October, my wife developed a pretty nasty case of pneumonia that turned into septic shock. Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with this condition, it’s when your body develops a bad infection, and as a reaction, your organs begin to shut down. I didn’t know any of this until this very scary episode with Mel.
In the case of my wife, it was her liver that began to fail. She spent three weeks in the hospital, and was in the ICU for three days. She had a million scans, and a blood transfusion, and there were several days as she fought for her life that I was convinced I was going to be a widower.
The first three days she was in the ICU were the scariest. Everything was touch and go, and during day two, I sat across from her as she sat up in her hospital bed, IVs in both arms, monitors across her chest, nurses going in and out. We were discussing how she was feeling, and she casually said, “I got on my class’s Zoom meeting this morning to tell the kids not to worry about me.”
I paused. When Mel wasn’t fighting for her life, she worked full time at our children’s charter school. Part of her job was as a teaching assistant in a 5th grade class, and the rest of the time she instructed gardening classes. I don’t know how long I silently stared at her after she told me this, in what I can only describe as total shock. She was having a hard time staying awake because she was so tired, and between opening and closing her eyes, I said, “You are in the ICU fighting for your life, and you went in to work? Are you serious?”
She perked up a little after I said that. We both work in education; I work at a university managing tutors and study tables for the athletics department. I don’t want to sound selfish, but were I in the ICU as sick as she was, the last thing I’d think to do would be to log into Zoom and make sure my tutors knew I was okay. But Mel … well, she’s a different breed of educator, obviously. And when I asked her why she felt the need to log into Zoom and chat with her students, she gave me an answer that gave me serious pause.
“Right now, these kids have enough to worry about. They don’t need to be worrying about one of their teachers. So I just logged on to let them know that I was okay.”
And this, my friends, is why teachers are a whole new level of saintly. I mean, Mel had every reason to be focused on herself, and her own well-being. Looking back on the day before, I have no doubt that if we’d waited a few more hours to bring her into the hospital, we’d have lost her. And yet, despite all of that, she was worried about her students and their emotional well-being. And as I looked in her very tired eyes, it seems clear that knowing her students were worried about her was keeping her from resting properly.
Right now there are a lot of people frustrated with schools not being open. And you know what, I get that. I’m living it with you. I’ve been working from home with three kids at home since March, and it’s been a stressful train wreck. But this moment with my wife comforting her students from her hospital bed — when she was the one truly in need of thoughts and prayers — is a pretty solid example of why teachers deserve all the credit. They deserve all the love and compassion and benefit of the doubt.
Teachers are very good people who love your children at a level that is hard to quantify because the love is just that huge. But if you are looking for an example of that love, just describe my wife in the ICU comforting her students via Zoom.
I am happy to report that Mel has made a full recovery. She is out of the hospital, and back to working online. In fact, the first day she went back to work, I was upstairs working, and she was downstairs chatting with her students. I don’t know what they were talking about, but she was laughing long and hard, same as she did before she got sick. And it was that laughter, that joy of being back teaching children, that gave me a huge sense of peace. It felt like she was getting back to normal, and frankly it was one of the best sounds I’d ever heard. Especially since I know it came straight from the heart.
This article was originally published on