BOISE, Idaho — It's a heartbreaking scenario playing out in Idaho hospitals every day: Patients are dying from COVID-19 and many are feeling regret over their decision not to get vaccinated after it's too late.
During our recent tour of the Saint Alphonsus intensive care unit, we met Ericka Thayn. She was visiting her mother in the ICU.
"It is a rollercoaster from hell, to be honest. I've been physically ill over the information I've had to give to my dad and the rest of my family. It's just real heavy." - Ericka Thayn
Ericka's mom is in her fifties and unvaccinated. Ericka says her mom urged older family members to get the vaccine months ago but felt she wasn't at risk. She had only recently made the decision she wanted to get the shot herself.
"Then it was just too late," Thayn said.
Ericka's mom is currently in the ICU at @SaintAlsHealth on a ventilator with COVID-19. She's not vaccinated but had just recently decided she wanted to get the shot. Now "it's just a thought too late," Ericka said.— Karen Lehr (@KarenLehr) September 24, 2021
Catch the full story tonight on @IdahoNews6 pic.twitter.com/d7lYVV0Ykj
Ericka says her entire family ended up getting the virus. Some family members were vaccinated and some were not.
"I got it, my sister got it, my husband, her husband, my dad had already had it, my grandparents had it," Thayn explained. "Then those who were vaccinated had very few symptoms."
Ericka says Covid "spread through her family like wildfire". Some were vaccinated, some weren't. Those who were vaccinated had very few symptoms and now their unvaccinated mother is in the ICU on a ventilator.— Karen Lehr (@KarenLehr) September 23, 2021
Now she says vaccination is "easy, quick, and lifesaving." pic.twitter.com/cpTr09HWyL
Ericka is also not vaccinated. Like her mother, she felt she wasn't at high risk of getting seriously sick.
"I thought, 'I'm young, that's not going to happen to me,' which was stupid because I did get sick and it was terrible; fevers and chills and delirium, coughing, all sorts of things," Thayn said. "And I got lucky. It could have been a lot worse."
But for Ericka's mom, it was worse. She was admitted through the ER about eleven days ago and has been sedated and paralyzed for the last week, unable to communicate with family members fortunate enough to visit in person.
"Fortunately, right now they're letting two of us in at a time, which is a huge blessing," Thayn said. "There are four kids and my sister lives in Washington, so she's actually going to fly in and see my mom with my brother tomorrow."
Ericka's mom is just one of dozens of Idahoans currently being treated at the Saint Alphonsus ICU. During the current delta surge, the patients are getting younger.
"So in the ICU right next door, I just rounded on a 27-year-old, female, covid positive, unvaccinated, intubated," ICU Medical Director Dr. Meghan McInerney said.
Dr. McInerney can't even count how many patients she's personally seen pass away since the start of the pandemic. On Wednesday, five COVID patients died at this hospital alone.
For those who make it out of the ICU alive, the road ahead isn't always easy.
"For those lucky people who don't die, a lot of them will have long-term side effects, long-term symptoms from COVID where they might be more short of breath just walking around," Dr. McInerney explained.
Now, while Ericka watches her mother breathe through a machine, she wishes everyone would put politics aside and take the pandemic seriously.
"I'm one to admit I don't like being told what to do. I don't want mandates, but we each have a personal choice and if you want to choose to have a loved one on a ventilator, that's a choice. But from experience, I would say not my first choice." - Ericka Thayn
I'm one to admit I don't like being told what to do," Thayn said. "I don't want mandates, but we each have a personal choice and if you want to choose to have a loved one on a ventilator, that's a choice. But from experience, I would say not my first choice."
Ericka calls the entire experience humbling, now feeling a sense of regret and urging those who will listen to get vaccinated.
"It's crazy. It's crazy what COVID can do, and if there's any hope at all in the vaccine, and we know that there is now, it's proven, just take it," Thayn said. "Just get it done. The risks versus benefits? Definitely, there are way more benefits."