A six-week battle against the novel coronavirus has ended in tragedy for a Brooklyn, New York, middle school teacher.
Rana Zoe Mungin, a social studies teacher at Bushwick Ascend Middle School, died at Brookdale Hospital Monday, April 27, more than six weeks after she first fell ill with a fever, and over a month after she was placed on a ventilator.
Her family says she was turned away from an emergency room twice before she was finally hospitalized and tested for the novel virus. Her sister Mia, who had been chronicling her sister’s battle with the virus since she began experiencing symptoms on March 9, tweeted the heartbreaking news Monday.
“It is with heavy heart that I have to inform you all that my sister, Rana Zoe … has passed away today at 12:25pm due to COVID-19 complications,” she wrote in the Monday post. “She fought a long fight but her body was too weak.”
Mungin developed symptoms after her nurse sister returned from a hospital shift to the pair’s shared home with a fever. As Rana’s condition worsened, her family says an ambulance was called at least once when she had a difficult time breathing. Mia Mungin told local station WPIX that when the paramedics showed up on that occasion they suggested her sister’s symptoms were a “panic attack,” and after Rana arrived at the emergency room she was refused a test for the virus despite her symptoms and possible exposure. The family says their ill loved one was twice refused a test at Brooklyn’s Brookdale Hospital before she was admitted on March 20, when she was almost immediately placed on a ventilator.
Rana Mungin ultimately would be transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and improve, but her condition took a turn for the worse after she was transferred again to a New Jersey facility for patients who are coming off ventilators. Rana died the day after her sister apologized to her over FaceTime for possibly infecting her.
“I apologized that she was there,” Mia told WPIX.
The registered nurse felt her sister was a victim of racial disparities in the health care system, and the lack of care that her sister received early on contributed to her death.
“Racism and health disparities still continues … [and] the zip code in which we live still predetermines the type of care we receive,” Mia Mungin wrote on Facebook.
According to the CDC, Blacks account for 30 percent of cases related to the novel virus in the U.S. despite comprising just 13 percent of the population.
Nohemi Maciel, Rana’s friend for more than a decade, shared similar sentiments. She hope Mungin’s story continues conversations about the disparity.
“She died not only because of COVID-19, but because we live in a world that is racist and anti-black,” Maciel, told ABC News. “We know that black people are dying at disproportionate rates. This cannot be left out of the conversation.”
“I’m heartbroken and don’t know how to live in a world without Zoe. But I’m also angry. I’m angry that her students lost a wonderful and committed teacher, because representation matters,” she added.
Wellesley College President Dr. Paula Johnson, founder and former executive director of the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology as well as chief of the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said the disproportionate impact of cases in Black and Latino families are a “moral and systemic failure.”
“Rana touched the lives of so many members of our community during her time here at Wellesley and beyond,” Johnson, the first black woman to serve as the university’s president, told ABC News. “As a social studies educator in Brooklyn, Rana and her love of teaching exemplified Wellesley’s mission to make a difference in the world, and our motto of Non Ministrari sed Ministrare, ‘not to be ministered unto, but to minister.'”
During an early April press conference, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city’s plan to open up five additional sites for low-income communities of color — an effort to address the racial disparity in COVID-19 cases.
But that wait continues for residents as the African-American death toll mounts.