Arkansas teacher dies while being treated for COVID-19, family says

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HARRISBURG, Ark. — A teacher at Harrisburg Elementary and mother of five died while her family says she was being treated for COVID-19.

Susanne Michael, 47, graduated from Williams Baptist University and taught six years before making the move to Harrisburg Elementary, the Harrisburg school district said in a release. The fourth-grade teacher was starting her ninth year at the school when she died on October 1.

Tuesday, her husband and the district she worked for in Poinsett County, Arkansas honored her.

“From the very first time I’ve seen her that’s what she’s been in love with is kids and working with kids,” said her husband Keith Michael.

He knew his late wife truly had a gift, and a passion for teaching. 

“Mrs. Michael was an outstanding teacher who cared very deeply about the success and wellbeing of each and every one of her students,” the school district said in a statement.

Together for nearly 30 years, the couple adopted three more children just two months ago — Houston and Hunter, ages 2 and 7, plus 12-year-old Holly. 

Michael, his 16-year-old daughter and 73-year-old mother-in-law are also recovering from the virus.

“It’s just extremely strange how it picks and chooses,” he said.

The family is working to get through the loss. 

“It’s like a fog sometimes, you know?” Michael said. “Kinda looking for a little clarity. At this point it’s not really there. I know that it will come.”  

Susanne started feeling ill several weeks ago. Initially she thought she had an ear infection but tested positive for COVID-19. Shortly after, she became extremely sick to her stomach.

“She had high fever, she hurt. She said, ‘My body hurts in places I didn’t know it could hurt.’ Then she lost her sense of smell and taste,” Michael said.

Things got worse with intense coughing, troubling breathing. She had underlying issues, and she was hospitalized.

“She only had one kidney and she had had uterine cancer. She also was a type II diabetic,” Michael said.

At one point they thought she was recovering but the virus was too much.

Michael says he doesn’t blame any politicians, and urged everyone to take precautions to stay safe.

“We don’t know how long this is going to last,” he said.

All of her classes will continue as scheduled, and counselors will be on hand for students and co-workers.

“Time heals, but time can seem to move slowly when a friend has been lost. Susanne Michael was such a friend. We remember her with love, and we will emulate her love of teaching as we care for our students,” the school district said.

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