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70-Year-Old Nursing Teacher Comes Out of Retirement Only to Die of COVID-19

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One community in North Texas is honoring the life of one amazing woman. Iris Meda, a long-time registered nurse and educator, recently came out of retirement to train the next generation of nurses as they get ready to combat the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, she eventually contracted the disease herself, only to pass away last week.

Her family and the nursing community are showing their support for this legendary educator who risked it all to make sure young nurses had the skills they needed to serve on the front lines. We’re proud to share her story and everything she did for the nursing profession.

Coming Out of Retirement

Meda wasn’t always in love with academia. She dropped out of high school at a young age and went on to receive her GED. She eventually enrolled in nursing school and graduated from New York City College in 1984. She continued to serve in the field for nearly 40 years before ending her career as a career counselor, training nurses in the North Texas area. She eventually retired from her work at the North Texas Job Corps, where she was an administrator of the onsite clinic, in January of 2020.

Just as she was ending her career, the COVD-19 crisis had entered the stage. At the age of 70, Meda soon realized she had to cut her newfound retirement short and get right back in the classroom, so aspiring nurses could still get certified. Beginning in September, just in time for the new semester, Meda went back to work as an educator, training nursing students at Collin College as well as high school students earning dual credit.

Her daughter, Selene Meda-Schlamel said, “One of the reasons she wanted to be an educator, specifically in nursing at this time, the reason she came out of retirement to pursue it was because of the pandemic. She wanted to train other front line workers to help in this crisis.”

Meda was known for her thoughtful, encouraging ways as an educator. At a time when nursing students were wrecked with uncertainty, fear, and anxiety, Meda was there to lend a helping hand.

Selene Meda-Schlamel added, “She would say how she could pick out the ones who were struggling and she would stay after with them and give them a helping hand because she had received so much encouragement in her life.”

Coming Down with COVID

Considering her age and race, Meda was a high-risk individual. Her daughter says her mom was diagnosed with the virus in early October, and was hospitalized on Oct. 17th.

It’s not clear where Meda contracted the virus, but it likely could have been at work. The school where she taught said classes would be in-person, but Meda thought it was worth the risk.

Her students started sending in their hopes, prayers, and get-well cards, but Meda’s condition quickly worsened, and she was soon placed on a ventilator.

Her daughter and Meda’s 75-year-old husband remember visiting her in the hospital covered in PPE. “Just to see this amazing, vivacious woman…so willing to put her life on the line to help others so they could then help others, to see her languishing there,” said Selene Meda-Schlamel. “It was such a tragedy.”

Going to the hospital was a wake-up call for Meda’s daughter and her entire family. She wants people to know that things can easily take a turn for the worst even if you have access to the right medical care.

“Just because you make it into the hospital in time doesn’t mean that you’re going to immediately get all of the treatment because of the hospital’s own protocol, plus the overcrowding and shortness of staff,” her daughter added.

The entire community is coming together in light of Meda’s passing.

Neil Matkin, the president of Collin College, issued a statement after her passing: “On behalf of our Board of Trustees, students, faculty and staff, we extend our deepest condolences to the Meda family. Professor Meda’s family shared that she was honored to serve as an instructor at Collin College, and we are sincerely grateful for her service to our students.”

Friends of the family have also started a GoFundMe account to help pay for her medical bills and funeral expenses, as well as a scholarship for aspiring nurses, so they can honor Meda’s legacy as an instructor. As the organizers write online, “Iris was passionate about education and this will be a befitting tribute to her.”

The group is on track to reach their goal of $20,000 as more donations keep pouring in. One of Meda’s former colleagues wrote online, “We all appreciate the selflessness of Iris Meda in doing what every teacher would do: to teach a new generation valuable skills that are desperately needed right now. Iris embodies what all teachers aspire to, and we thank her for being an inspiration to us all.”

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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