Nurse, 70, who came out of retirement to teach during pandemic dies from COVID-19

Iris Meda retired as a nurse in January only to reenter the field months later to train students in the fight against coronavirus

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A nurse who came out of retirement to teach during the coronavirus pandemic has died of complications relating to COVID-19.

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Iris Meda tested positive for coronavirus on  October 14 after being exposed to the virus by a student. She was hospitalized by October 17 and died on November 14. According to a GoFundMe launched by Nike Aina, Meda graduated from New York City College in 1984 and worked in nursing until she retired from the North Texas Job Corps in January of this year.

The retirement, however, did not last long as she saw the need to teach as the coronavirus pandemic began.

Iris Meda
(Image via GoFundMe)

She taught nursing skills to students of Collin College at Anna High School and Allen High SchoolInside Higher Ed reported faculty members had issues with the initial announcement of Meda’s passing. According to the outlet,  President H. Neil Matkin sent an email with the subject “College Update & Happy Thanksgiving!” casually adding the death in between holiday cheer and a donation campaign. Days later, a second email was sent identifying the 70-year-old teacher by name.

A statement from a college spokesman claimed Matkin, initially, did not have permission from her family to share details. Still, staff members disagreed with the email announcement.

According to the report, Michael Phillips, a history professor at Collin College, said: “even if Dr. Matkin did not have permission from Iris Meda’s family to share her name at the time he sent his first email, his initial announcement of the death of a faculty member was handled in a callous fashion.”

He continued, “even without providing a name, Dr. Matkin should have broken [the] news that a faculty member died in a separate email with condolences, an appropriate acknowledgment of how tragic the death was, and an appreciation of the hardships all students, faculty, and staff have gone through during this catastrophic pandemic. Instead, a faculty death was treated as a side note, a statistical item. This is not how you properly inform others that there was a death in the family.”

Iris Meda
(Credit: Selene Meda-Schlamel)

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Meda is survived by her daughter Selene Meda-Schlamel, and her sister. The GoFundMe shared she lost her daughter Tanya Meda Bui, to cancer in June 2013.  She was described as a positive, giving, upbeat, and religious person.

According to the GoFundMe, Meda’s family has announced a plan to honor her legacy with a scholarship fund with money obtained from donations. They also plan to use the funds to pay for her funeral services and medical bills. Services will be held be at Covenant Church McKinney on Saturday. December 5. The campaign has a goal of $20,000 and has reached almost $17,000 as of now.

“She felt like if she could gain momentum by teaching some of those basics, we could contain any virus,” Meda-Schlamel said to The Washington Post. “She wanted to do something that would make a difference.”

“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,’”

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