Phillip Bellon said, “I know she wanted to go home to teach. She wanted to be with the children she was teaching.” “She was actually on oxygen teaching while she was in the hospital, but her condition reached a point where she could not physically breathe.”
Filamena Bellone returned to the hospital about two weeks later on November 28, her brother said. A week later, he was put on ventilator in a last-ditch effort to save his life.
But on December 11, the already healthy 44-year-old died at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque. She leaves behind her three children and a grandson, as well as her parents, brother and sister.
The Bellon family and several students who were serving teachers are part of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.
She wanted every student to feel special
Philamena Bellone gave her heart to her students and did everything she could to meet them at her level.
“The hardest students were given to my sister,” Bellone said with a laugh. “He taught the children that everyone left him but he never left anyone.”
Bellone was a teacher at Wingate Elementary School in Fort Wingate, New Mexico, about two hours west of Albuquerque. Her school confirmed her death in a statement to CNN.
Principal Eric North said, “His smile spread to his class and his laughter could be heard from down the hallway.” “He was always a kind word to others that came his way, whether it was in the cafeteria, in buses or on the playground. His energy and sense of humor were infectious.”
During the epidemic, Philamena Belone taught virtual classes, her brother said. However, many of its Navajo students did not have access to reliable Internet, he said.
As a result, Bellone said that her sister would drive two hours each way every week and leave class materials at school for her students.
She said she adapted the content to each one. He made paper copies for some students, while others had laptops but no Internet, so he made them flash drives that contained the contents. Other students could only get online at night from their parents’ phones, so she worked overnight to meet their needs.
“She provided arts and crafts, small personal notes and distinctive souvenirs to each child,” Bellone said. “He went above and beyond to teach his children through phone calls, the Internet, when it was available, and produced hard copies for all his coursework for the week.”
Bellone estimates that her sister was working 70 hours a week. She did this because she loved the students and wanted to make each of them feel special, her brother said.
“Of the children she worked with, the best were not raised, so she always went to another level to join her in person and become an older sister or her aunt,” he said.
“My sister also had some difficult situations in her life, so she had a special relationship with practically disabled children,” Bellone said. “She would love to connect with children and make them happy. It was her reward.”
She went from being healthy to fighting for her life
Filamena Bellone began feeling unwell on November 12, her brother said. The symptoms were minimal at first, but a persistent cough landed her in the emergency room. Doctors diagnosed her with Kovid-19 and pneumonia.
The doctors gave him oxygen and he stayed there for three days, but his yearning to return to teaching was fast, his brother said.
His brother said he had gone home with an oxygen tank and mask, pushing him to teach until the end of the school term. Her youngest son was living with her mother, but she left the house while her mother was chud.
Within two weeks, she had worsened and was taken to Albuquerque Hospital.
Filamena Bellone was a runner and a man who loves to exercise. She said that her brother found it unbelievable that he was to be put on ventilator on 6 December.
He said that what the ventilator meant is also understandable to the family – after both were put on ventilators, Bellon lost his aunt and uncle to the virus.
He thought Filamena Bellone would be fine. “Before that he was a healthy and vibrant, good soul who we never expected would be in this situation,” Bellone said.
He said that she kept fighting with her family and assured him that he would be fine. Filamena Bellone never wanted anyone to “fuss” about them and was a very private person, he said.
“We had no idea that she had come under such dramatic circumstances until she was physically admitted for a second time,” Bellone said. “I was under the impression that she was still going to recover and the symptoms were not that bad. She hid it very well from all of us.”
The family said doctors found blood clots in her lungs and found that she had a collapsed lung. She also went into kidney failure and required dialysis.
“I saw the worst of him but understood that he had fought his heart out and he was ready to rest,” he said. Ultimately, his family openly decided to remove him from the ventilator.
“After we decided … I was really numb,” Bellone said. “There was no emotion in my body. I didn’t know if I was dreaming or I didn’t know what was real.”
She was a ‘big contagious smile’
When she was not in class, Filamena Bellone enjoyed horseback riding, hunting, crafting, and traveling. She said she loves to dance, spending time to teach her students some tricks, her brother said.
But above all, “she loved children,” her brother said.
Filamena Bellone was a devoted, loving mother to three children.
“Their children are absolutely devastated by the loss of their precious beloved mother,” said Bellon.
Mechele Bellone, 27, Quiona, 22, and 19-year-old Dion Dotson are now missing their mother’s love and support. He also left behind a 4-year-old granddaughter, Mila.
But what Bellon will miss the most about his sister is the “beautiful dimple on her right cheek.”
“Everyone is going to remember his big lively infectious smile. Everyone is going to remember his laughter,” he said. “What I’m going to miss the most about him is his desire to please people at whatever cost.”
Bellone said he knows that he and his family alone have not been harmed by the epidemic.
“Filamena’s story is not unique,” Bellone said. “We should focus on all those stories, all of the millions of people in our country who are affected by it.”
If anything, Bellon hopes that people can learn from her sister’s life of service and giving.
“She wanted everyone to love each other and not judge each other, see the best of all and do everything they could to make the world a better place,” she said. “That was his legacy.”
Holly Silverman of CNN contributed to this report.