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Crete-Monee Middle School Teacher Cherie Garza, 39, Dies 2 Months After Contracting COVID-19

UNIVERSITY PARK, Ill. (CBS) -- A 39-year-old teacher at Crete-Monee Middle School in the south suburbs has died two months after contracting COVID-19.

For weeks, Cherie Garza's family had been sharing her battle against COVID online with friends and strangers alike, as they prayed for a miracle.

But as CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported Tuesday night, Garza's battle has ended in heartbreak.

Garza never even got a change to return to classes this fall.

In a GoFundMe, friends said Cherie Garza had been a healthy 39-year-old wife, sister, daughter, and friend, and "the epitome of an excellent educator."

"Everyone would want to have a 'Cherie' as their teacher due to her humor, life stories, and passion for learning," friends said on the GoFundMe. "Throughout her mission travels in various countries around the world, she exemplified a servant-like approach in embracing and serving others. Cherie's ability to strike up a conversation with anyone and share the love of Christ is truly a testament of her Christian walk."

But in mid-July, Garza tested positive for COVID-19, and she was rushed to Franciscan Health Munster in Munster, Indiana, where she had to go to the ICU. She had COVID pneumonia and very low blood oxygen levels, family said.

Four days later, Garza was airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, because she needed more advanced care. She was later placed on a ventilator and an ECMO machine, which pumps and oxygenates a blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.

Garza fought to breathe, and at one point came out of an induced coma.

Reports show the teacher had planned to get vaccinated before returning to Crete-Monee Middle School, but she never got a chance to walk back into the building and greet the young students she impacted over the years.

On Tuesday night, the district confirmed her death. In a statement, school district Supt. Dr. Kara Coglianese wrote:

"The Crete-Monee School District 201-U family is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of one of our own. Our students and staff at Crete-Monee Middle School will miss her motivational speeches, volunteerism, love of reading, cooking, all things musical theater, and her undying devotion to her beloved Chicago Cubs. Ms. Garza was an outstanding teacher, colleague, and friend to so many and she will be dearly missed."

The GoFundMe, set up before Garza died, requested help with medical bills.

Close friends and family wrote many fitting tributes to Garza online, but they did not talk publicly Tuesday night.


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