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Nampa School District employee who ‘cared so much’ dies after long COVID-19 battle

·4 min read

A Nampa School District employee died last week after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19.

Susan Ward, who worked for the Nampa School District Family Community Resource Centers, was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 27, according to one of her daughters, Courtney Craner.

Ward had been fully vaccinated, Craner said, but was in the hospital for weeks, going in and out of ICU. When she first arrived at the hospital, Craner said her mother’s “blood pressure was low, her oxygen was around 80% and one of her kidneys had slowly started to stop working,” according to a GoFundMe page she created for medical expenses.

She died on Oct. 21, surrounded by her husband and three daughters.

Craner described what she and her family went through as a “roller coaster.”

In Ward’s last few weeks, Craner and her dad, Ken Ward, got to spend time with her in the hospital.

“We’re so grateful for that, because we just got to sit there with her and hold her hand,” Craner said. “We could talk to her and tell her what we loved about her.”

Craner said that since her mom died, she’s heard from countless people who have been sharing stories about Ward. Craner and Ken Ward said she never liked to be the center of attention, but now they are giving her some of the attention she deserved.

“A lot of people are talking about how she was motherly to everyone,” Craner said. “A lot of people just have told stories about how she helped them. … She would just give them the shirt off her back.”

The vast majority of people who are hospitalized and die from COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last month found that the risk of dying from COVID-19 was more than 10 times higher for unvaccinated adults than it was for those who were fully vaccinated.

But breakthrough cases do exist; the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has reported 13,285 of them, with 157 deaths.

Before working in the Nampa School District, Ward worked in the medical field, where she had a passion for making sure people were as comfortable as possible, Craner said.

And she would do anything to put a smile on someone’s face — even if it was just something small.

Craner remembered that many times at the grocery store, her mom would help an elderly person load their groceries. Once, Susan Ward saw an older woman she knew walking home from the grocery store, made a U-turn and went back to help the woman home, Ken Ward said.

Craner said she wants to honor her mom through service and helping others, because that’s what she would have wanted.

‘She knew the kids by name’

Mari Ramos, who worked with Ward at Central Elementary School, described her as an “extremely kind person” who was always willing to listen and wanted to be a friend to anybody in need.

“The work that we do ... it just came very naturally to her because she cared so much about her community, and she cared about her students and she just cared about everyone,” Ramos told the Statesman in a phone interview.

Ward always made sure students had what they needed — from food to clothes, puzzles to coloring books — to use in quarantine during the pandemic, Ramos said.

“She knew the kids by name. She knew what was going on in their family. She would listen to them, she would love on them,” she said. “She would never refuse a hug from a student.”

Ramos said Ward was passionate about serving her community but never wanted recognition or praise.

“She just did it because it was the right thing to do,” Ramos said.

Craner said she wants people to realize this can happen to anybody.

“What my mom would tell people is this is just an opportunity for everybody to step up and help people,” Craner said.

A funeral service will be held on Friday.

Several educators across Idaho have died in connection to COVID-19 over the past several months. A math teacher in the Weiser School District died in August, and a teacher in the West Ada School District died in September after being in the hospital for weeks.

Becca Savransky covers education for the Idaho Statesman in partnership with Report for America. The position is partly funded through community support. Click here to donate.

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