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Idaho legislator urges people to get vaccinated after his mother dies from COVID-19


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BOISE (Idaho Statesman) – On Sept. 20, Rep. Greg Chaney found himself putting on a gown, gloves and face mask as quickly as he could. He was going to visit his mother’s hospital room.

Fifteen minutes later, she died of COVID-19.

She had chosen not to get vaccinated.

Those two things — his mother’s death and his mother’s choice — have been difficult to reconcile, he told the Idaho Statesman.

“Acknowledging that what happened was a product of Mom’s choice kind of throws a strange wrinkle in the grieving process,” Chaney, a Caldwell Republican, said in a phone interview. “Because she didn’t exactly choose to die. But she chose, based on her age and physical condition, that she was highly likely to end up there if she got COVID. It’s a hard thing to wrap your brain around.”

It all happened quickly. His mother, Judy Teter-Page, 74, and his sister’s family all came down with COVID-19 two weeks ago.

When Teter-Page took a turn for the worse, she refused to go to the hospital for two days, afraid of Idaho’s newly enacted crisis standards, a form of health care rationing caused by an influx of COVID-19 patients. She was especially concerned about a widespread misconception that hospitals were not resuscitating any patients. That portion of the crisis standards only potentially becomes a factor if ventilators become scarce.

“I was correcting some misconceptions about things like refusal to treat, can they turn us away, or can they just let her lay there and die,” Chaney said.

But on Sept. 18, Teter-Page was “too delirious” to refuse. His sister took her to West Valley Medical Center.

On Sept. 20, Chaney, an attorney, was tied up in court all day. His family kept him updated through text messages. At 3 p.m., he got a text saying Teter-Page said she was feeling better. At 4:45 p.m., the doctor wanted to speak to the family.

An hour later, Chaney got a text from his sister saying his mother didn’t have much time left.

At 7:15 p.m., Chaney made it to the hospital.

By 7:30 p.m., Teter-Page was gone.

“It was just that quick,” Chaney said.

His mother’s decision not to get vaccinated still haunts him.

“Mom had worked at the Old Mercy Medical Center as a chaplain,” Chaney said. “She worked in a doctor’s office. She wasn’t anti-medicine. She wasn’t gullible. She had two post-secondary degrees. She was an intelligent person. She was, however, a very skeptical person.”

Teter-Page was the first in her family to earn a post-secondary degree. Chaney said she was especially proud of having received both her degrees, a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in ministry, as an adult with two children.

She was also adventurous and independent. Once Teter-Page’s children were grown, she and her second husband took to the highways as truck drivers. There, she used skills taught to her by her own father, a mechanic.

“My grandfather would say, ‘My girls can do anything a man can do,’ ” Chaney said. “And my mom liked to prove it.”

Chaney took to social media on Monday to urge people to get vaccinated. The choice to remain unvaccinated affects more than one person, Chaney said.

He credits West Valley physicians, nurses and aides with doing their best.

“I speak for the whole family that West Valley did a remarkable and compassionate job for her,” Chaney said.

He said it was “emotionally taxing” for the West Valley staff to lose another patient, and he knew that resources from unvaccinated COVID-19 patients were being taken from others.

“But moreover, it’s the family members of these folks who are suffering the consequences of their decisions,” Chaney said.

He blames misinformation for convincing his mother that the side effects of the vaccine would be a greater risk to her health than COVID-19.

“Frankly, there’s some anger,” Chaney said. “I think there are people in our political realm … who are essentially killing people with misinformation.

“But they’ll get away with it, because you can never really tell at what point somebody was convinced of a lie. Was it the fifth time it was repeated? Was it the 50th time? Was it the 500th time? Nobody really knows. But this politically motivated misinformation campaign that’s out there is deadly.”

My mother passed away last Monday from #COVID19 in the ICU. Being #Unvaccinated was her choice. But, those making that choice don’t just put themselves at risk, they strain their families & place non-COVID patients at risk by diverting care. Please get #vaccinated #idleg #idpol