Nick Goberville and his girlfriend, Sarah Simental, a senior at Lincoln-Way East High School, had bought Christmas gifts for each other, but a personal exchange was not to happen.
There was a FaceTime visit after the 18-year-old Simental was hospitalized with what was initially thought to be a cold, but in fact was COVID-19 that would bring on respiratory failure.
Simental, of Tinley Park, died Dec. 26 at the University of Chicago Medical Center after being taken to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox days earlier. Her mother, Deborah Simental, said her daughter had no underlying health problems.
“She was always very happy,” Goberville, 17, said outside a visitation Wednesday in Orland Park for Simental. “She never failed to put a smile on people’s faces.”
Those who knew Simental described her as outgoing and friendly.
Christine Zahorik, 17, said she was in English classes with Simental for two years at Lincoln-Way East.
“We talked all the time,” Zahorik, who graduated early this year, said outside Lawn Funeral Home. “She was the sweetest person you’d ever meet. She was nice to every single person she came across.”
Simental was airlifted Christmas Day from Silver Cross to the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Her death was a result of acute hypoxic respiratory failure due to COVID-19 infection, with non-traumatic cerebral hemorrhages as a contributing factor, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Zahorik said that when she learned Simental had died, “I didn’t even think it was real.”
She said she hoped Simental’s death would convince others who believe the worst effects of COVID-19 are limited to older persons with health problems.
“There are people who don’t want to accept that anyone can get it,” she said. “They don’t want to think it can happen to them.”Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.
Goberville said he and Simental had met online and had dated for about three months. The 17-year-old, from Joliet, had bought Christmas gifts including a necklace with a photo of himself and Simental, although it is still awaiting delivery.
After Simental’s death, her mother drove out to Goberville’s home to deliver the gifts her daughter had bought him and Goberville was able to drop off what he had bought for his girlfriend.