Professor collapses and dies in front of virtual class amid COVID symptoms
A college professor in Argentina who had been suffering from persistent coronavirus symptoms collapsed and died at her home during a lecture in front of her virtual class, according to reports.
Paola De Simone, 46, who taught 20th-century world history at Universidad Argentina de la Empresa in Buenos Aries, complained she was having trouble breathing during the Zoom session last week, the Sun reported, citing Diari Mes.
Her alarmed students asked her to give them her home address so they could summon help, but she gasped “I can’t” before collapsing, according to the news outlet.
De Simone’s husband, a doctor, discovered her lifeless body when he came home.
The professor, who also is survived by a daughter, had mentioned her health struggle — and her husband’s work amid the pandemic — on Twitter.
“It is very complicated. I have been here [with the virus] for more than four weeks and the symptoms do not go away,” De Simone wrote, according to the Sun. “My husband is exhausted from working so much at the moment.”
One of her students, Ana Breccia, 23, described the professor’s last moments.
“She began by saying that she had pneumonia, we saw it was worse than in previous classes,” she said. “At one point she could not continue passing slides, nor speak and she became unbalanced.”
Another student called De Simone an “unforgettable teacher, one of those who give you a hand in everything, who make you love what you study, who go out of their way for their students. We are going to miss you a lot,” the Sun reported.
Silvina Sterin Pensel, an Argentine journalist in New York, said she was not surprised her friend and former classmate at Universidad del Salvador had still been teaching.
“I totally portray Paola deciding, ‘I can totally do this, my students need me,’” she told the Washington Post, adding that the professor’s death is a “sad reminder that the virus is real.”
Sterin Pensel, who met De Simone in 1992, described her friend as a “brainy, brilliant” person who displayed the traits of a successful educator even back then.
“You could tell already she had a bright future ahead in teaching or in any endeavor she set her mind to,” she told the Washington Post. “She was already displaying this critical thinking you find more in a professor than in a student.”
Michelle Denise Bolo — who said said she took De Simone’s economics class at the Universidad de Buenos Aires in 2017 — told the paper that the energetic professor always got her full attention.
“Her classes were at 7 a.m., it was very difficult sometimes, we were sleepy, but it was crazy because everybody listened to her,” the 21-year-old told the Washington Post. “By the end of the class, nobody wanted to leave, everybody wanted to keep talking about what she was explaining.”
Bolo said that when a friend informed her about De Simone’s death, she spent several hours messaging friends and former classmates to share their recollections about the beloved professor.
“It was like we kind of needed that sharing of memories, it was very heartbreaking when we found out,” she told the paper.
“She managed to show herself and talk about her life and her passions and her other jobs. She was very personal but also super professional,” Bolo added. “There are teachers that are sometimes unapproachable — she was nothing like that.”
More than 450,000 COVID-19 cases and over 9,000 fatalities have been reported in Argentina, according to Johns Hopkins University.
“The virus is still making rounds in Buenos Aires,” Sterin Pensel told the newspaper. “In Argentina, the confinement has been very strict, so people are showing signs of fatigue in complying. But these kinds of reminders, these awful reminders, they shake your core.”
The Universidad Argentina de la Empresa said in a statement that De Simone’s death had left the institution with “deep pain.”
“Paola was a passionate and dedicated teacher, and a great person, with more [than] fifteen years of experience,” it said.