COVID-19 has taken the life of a veteran teacher from Henry County even though she was vaccinated because her family believes other medicines she was taking worked against virus prevention.
Amy Thompson Ferguson, a 32-year middle school teacher, most recently handling seventh grade at Fieldale-Collinsville Middle School, was on vacation with friends in Orlando, Fla., late last month when she became ill and was hospitalized. She died there on July 9.
Ferguson posted on Facebook on June 28 that she has been in the hospital for three days while battling COVID-19 and pneumonia.
Ferguson’s husband, Randy Ferguson, told the Martinsville Bulletin in a phone call on Thursday that his wife was vaccinated against COVID-19, but she had rheumatoid arthritis and took immune-suppressing drugs to treat that disease.
That’s what doctors believe could have affected the vaccine’s effectiveness. He did not disclose which vaccine his wife had taken.
In her post on June 28, Ferguson wrote that she believed she had COVID-19 before leaving for the trip because she was being treated for a sinus infection.
Randy Ferguson said he wants people who are immune compromised to “know they may not be in as good a shape as they think they are with their vaccines,” he said. “It may not take.
“The CDC indicated to me that that’s one of the groups that it might not work like it’s supposed to. If we can keep somebody else who is in the same position from catching this … then something positive will come out of it.”
In an article by CNN Health, Dr. Beth Wallace, a rheumatologist, and her team at the University of Michigan estimate that about 6 million Americans are taking immunosuppressants that could interfere with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Studies are being conducted across the country to test how well the coronavirus vaccines work alongside various immunosuppressant drugs.
Amy Ferguson had taught all subjects in middle school before settling on math in the past few years as a seventh-grade teacher. She had taught at G.W. Carver Middle School before moving to FCMS.
“I worked with Mrs. Ferguson closely in math content meetings for three years before coming into the building as an administrator two years ago,” FCMS Principal Hope Perry said in an email to the Bulletin. “She was part of the collaborative team that I held up as my model for all other collaborative teams that I worked with in the county.
“She was honest, funny and held high expectations for her students while being respectful to them as well. Mrs. Ferguson was an excellent teacher and caring colleague.
“This is a void for our FC family and is felt deeply for our staff and administrative team.”
As of Thursday night, Ferguson’s page on the Henry County Schools website had been removed. Some of her colleagues politely declined to comment on her passing.
Amy Ferguson was a graduate of Bassett High School and Patrick Henry Community College. She received her bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and recently received her master’s from Averett University.
Randy Ferguson said his wife was very outdoorsy and loved camping, water skiing and white-water rafting. He called her a very thoughtful person who always remembered tiny details about other people.
Randy Ferguson said “tons and tons” of former students have reached out to him in the past week, some of them students whose parents she had taught.
An outpouring of support and tributes flooded Amy Ferguson’s Facebook page since Randy Ferguson posted on July 9 that she had passed. Friends and colleagues in various posts called her an “incredible soul,” a “shining light” and “the world’s best math teacher” who was “always so encouraging and supportive.”
He said she had worked the required number of years and could have retired but chose not to because she loved teaching so much.
“She said, ‘I love to be in the classroom; I love the kids,’” he said. “She called all of her students … they are all her kids. Once you are in her classroom you are her kid for life.
“She would see them in a restaurant, and she would say ‘that’s one of my kids.’”
The Fergusons live in Ridgeway and have two daughters: Haley, 26, and Bre, 23. Both daughters went to VCU and studied art and education, and both will be teaching at the same school in Chesterfield this fall, with classrooms right across the hall from one another.
“Amy was really, really proud of that,” Randy Ferguson said of their daughters working at the same place. “She was proud of her daughters for going into teaching. … They chose to kind of follow that same path as her.”
Cara Cooper is a sports writer for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org