Unvaccinated Man Who Died of COVID 'Never Thought It Could Happen to Him'

The wife of an unvaccinated North Dakota man who died of COVID-19 last month has spoken out, saying her husband thought it "could never happen to him."

Amy Tersteeg told INFORUM that she did not want to push anyone to get vaccinated, but she felt the urge to share her husband's story so people could hear about his experience.

She said her husband, Rob Tersteeg, was open to getting vaccinated but was not in a rush to do so because he had no underlying health conditions.

"He never thought it could happen to him," she told INFORUM. "I want people to see what COVID really does. I want them to know that Rob received every COVID treatment, and it did not save him. "

Rob Tersteeg died on June 3 at the age of 46 after having received weeks of treatment for COVID-19.

As he lay on an ICU bed at Trinity Health in the city of Minot, the devoted stepfather to three children told his wife that she should get the kids vaccinated as soon as possible.

Amy Tersteeg had already received the vaccine earlier in the pandemic due to the fact that she works in an administrative role for Trinity Health.

Aside from not having any underlying health conditions, Tersteeg said that her husband had not prioritized getting vaccinated given that he had made it through more than a year of the pandemic without contracting COVID-19, while also seeing case numbers in North Dakota declining.

In his role as an oilfield safety officer for a natural gas company, Rob Tersteeg had traveled all over the U.S. in 2020 and had never become infected, even after being in states where COVID-19 was running rampant.

But in mid-May this year, Tersteeg began to develop symptoms of the disease, including a cough. Eventually, he began to experience difficulties with his breathing and decided to head to the emergency room. Unfortunately, he would never return home from hospital.

"Nothing had ever taken Rob down before. He just didn't stand a chance against COVID," Amy Tersteeg said.

During his hospitalization, his family was not allowed to be in the room due to COVID protocols.

"He was just so isolated and alone," Amy Tersteeg said.

By the end of the month, her husband's condition had worsened and he was intubated. He was eventually airlifted to another hospital in Minneapolis to receive specialist treatment. However, medical staff could not save him and he died in the early morning of June 3.

Dr. Casmiar Nwaigwe, an infectious disease specialist at Trinity Health, said some people think that they will not be severely affected by COVID-19 because they are relatively young and healthy. But Rob Tersteeg's story demonstrates that even seemingly healthy people can die from the disease.

"People feel that as long as they don't have any underlying medical conditions that they are not at risk of COVID. In my experience, it is not true," Nwaigwe told iNFORUM.

As of July 11, more than 184 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine—roughly 55 percent of the population—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over 159 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.

Health worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine
Stock image showing a health worker preparing a COVID-19 vaccine. iStock