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A Pasco County middle school teacher feels the love as she battles COVID-19

A GoFundMe created to support the family raised over $6,200 within 24 hours.
Renee Dermott, a teacher at Seven Springs Middle School in Pasco County, recently tested positive for COVID-19. She has received an outpouring of support from her community including donations to an online fundraiser for her family.
Renee Dermott, a teacher at Seven Springs Middle School in Pasco County, recently tested positive for COVID-19. She has received an outpouring of support from her community including donations to an online fundraiser for her family. [ Courtesy of Nicole Dermott ]
Published Jul. 18, 2020
Updated Jul. 24, 2020

Editor’s note: An update July 19 on the GoFundMe page said: “Renee tragically passed away today. She will be dearly missed by everyone.” Read more here.

Tanya Murphy was looking through Facebook when she came across a picture showing her friend and co-worker, Renee Dermott, wearing a breathing apparatus in an intensive care unit.

The caption described Dermott’s worry of moments she would miss with her children.

Dermott, 51, a sixth grade teacher at Seven Springs Middle School, was diagnosed with pneumonia and tested positive for COVID-19 last week, her daughter Nicole Dermott said.

Murphy reached out to Nicole Dermott to ask if she could create a GoFundMe online fundraiser to support the family. The link went up Friday. By Saturday afternoon it had raised over $6,200.

“It was pretty powerful,” said Murphy, 42. “It was pretty exciting stuff.”

The outpouring of support — donations, phone calls checking in, even meals delivered to the family’s New Port Richey home — all played a role in helping Renee Dermott recover, the daughter said. Her mother is still undergoing treatment at Medical Center of Trinity.

Related: Florida passes 5,000 coronavirus deaths, with 90 more reported Saturday
Renee Dermott and her husband John.
Renee Dermott and her husband John. [ Courtesy of Nicole Dermott ]

Renee Dermott would say she didn’t have very many friends, that she didn’t have a big circle, her daughter said.

“I think that was helpful to her absolutely.”

Renee Dermott had started feeling cold-like symptoms that eventually lasted about eight days, the daughter said. Her mother was hospitalized late night on July 13 where she was tested and put in a room overnight to see how she would do.

While everything seemed fine at first, her fever having broken and medication masking the other symptoms, her breathing started to get worse two days into her hospital stay. Doctors then worked to treat her pneumonia and her COVID-19 symptoms.

Nicole Dermott hasn’t been able to go in to see her mother. She’s been relying on doctors and nurses for updates. She’s made phone calls to relay messages of support. And her boyfriend works at the hospital, so he can pop in to greet her mother, offering that comfort.

“This whole thing has been really difficult,” the daughter said.

By Saturday morning, her mother was still in the intensive care unit, Nicole Dermott said, and she had been moved from a bipap machine the night before to help with her breathing and sleep apnea, to high flow oxygen.

Her family is taking extra safety precautions, the daughter said, and she is focusing on keeping her mother’s spirits up and on her recovery.

“I just want her to get out.”

Related: Employees union calls for delay in restarting Pasco schools

Renee Dermott had just started at Seven Springs Middle School in the last school year, Murphy said. Older students in the school’s student support and assistance program where Murphy teaches, recognized Dermott as one of their former elementary school teachers who made a difference in their lives.

“So I knew that she was somebody special,” Murphy said.

Murphy wasn’t sure whether her online fundraiser would take off. Even if all they got out of it was prayers and positive thoughts, it would be good, she thought. By Saturday afternoon it had been shared over 2,000 times.

“I want (Renee) to know and I want all patients to know that there are people out there rooting for them, there are people that are praying hard for them,” she said.

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