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Apex teacher who regretted not getting vaccinated dies

Friends say Merridith Mongone was full of life until she contracted COVID-19. Now, she's lost her life to the pandemic.

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Amanda Lamb
, WRAL reporter
APEX, N.C. — Friends say Merridith Mongone was full of life until she contracted COVID-19. Now, she's lost her life to the pandemic.

Mongone, 43, a fourth-grade teacher at Scotts Ridge Elementary School in Apex, died Thursday at UNC Medical Center, in Chapel Hill.

"I also would like the people to continue to pray for strength in my girls! I would also like to reiterate the fact the [intensive care unit] team of nurses and doctors did everything they could to help Merri get better, but God had other plans," her husband, Frank Mongone, wrote in an email to WRAL News.

"She was an amazing teacher. She made an impact on so many and will be missed by many kids," friend and fellow teacher Christine Vereckey said.

The Mongones have four daughters, ages 17 to 7, and all but the oldest daughter became infected with the virus after a trip to Charlotte. Everyone recovered but Merridith Mongone.

"Right at the two-week mark, when she was about done with her quarantine, she started feeling really bad," Vereckey said Wednesday.

Mongone went into WakeMed on Aug. 14 and was moved to UNC Medical Center a week later, where she was sedated and put on a ventilator and a heart-lung bypass machine to get more oxygen into her blood.

Before Mongone went on a ventilator, she sent Vereckey a very emotional text.

"One of her last texts to me was, 'I was so dumb. I should have gotten vaccinated. It was my belief. I was worried, wanted to do more research. But I was wrong. I should have gotten vaccinated,'" Vereckey said. "It broke my heart because I just knew she was really, really sick."

After Mongone got sick, she made sure her 17-year-old daughter got vaccinated, her friend said.

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Her illness is now spreading that message to others as well, Vereckey said.

"I've had multiple people message me that they have convinced friends and family to get vaccinated because of her story," she said.

The Scotts Ridge Elementary staff has pulled together to provide food and support to Mongone's family and to the ICU staff at UNC Medical Center.

Vereckey also created a GoFundMe page to help the family with medical bills and other expenses, raising more than $13,000 so far.

"I just love her," Vereckey said. "She's so amazing."


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