SWAMPSCOTT, Mass. - The North Shore community will say good bye to a beloved music teacher who died suddenly from complications from the flu this week.
Phyllis Gotlib, 68, called out of work on Monday and Tuesday, and died Wednesday.
Now the three elementary schools where she taught will be closed Friday so teachers and students can attend her funeral.
“I’m still in shock,” Laurie Casale said. “She’s part of our life.
The community is at a loss for words.
“She’s a really nice woman,” Stacy Picone said. “It’s really hard for the kids. My son was very upset last night, but she is well-loved throughout the community and the school.”
The school superintendent wrote to Boston 25 News and said, “She was a bright light, with a great sense of humor, a passion for music and for her students.”
Her family told Boston 25 News, “She brought music into the lives of so many children in Swampscott and Marblehead.
Neighbors said she was active. She took spin class, walked her dog and never missed school.
“It can happen to anyone, that’s what that says to me,” Casale said. “It can happen to anyone.”
“At Mass General, we are having one of the worst flue years we’ve had,” Dr. Ali Raja told Boston 25 News.
This month, the hospital said it saw a 250 percent increase in flue cases over last January, but doctors said the flu virus itself doesn’t kill. Instead another infection that strike while the person’s overwhelmed immune system is fighting the flu.
“When a healthy person dies of the flu in 24 hours, it’s definitely alarming,” Raja said. “And that is almost always because of the fact that their body is weak from the flu. And some other infection has come in and run rampant.”
Earlier this month, Jenny Ching, a Needham mother, passed away just days after she was diagnosed with the flu. Doctors said if you start to feel symptoms, don’t wait.
“Call your doctor,” Raja said. “Go to an urgent care, call your nurse practitioner, whoever takes care of you.”
Of course, the best defense against the flu is getting the flu shot. It’s also important to keep washing your hands. The three elementary schools closed in Swampscott were thoroughly cleaned.
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