Samantha Hickey, a nurse practitioner, once diagnosed a child’s disease in a single day after the child’s family had fruitlessly sought answers for roughly a year.
“The providers weren’t really hearing what the family said,” said Crystal Belcourt, a former trainee of Ms. Hickey’s at St. Luke’s Children’s Pediatrics in Caldwell, Idaho, where Ms. Hickey worked. “The biggest thing that I learned from Sam is to listen.”
Belcourt said the case was an example of Ms. Hickey’s “Sherlock Holmes” approach — teasing apart a complicated medical situation by closely studying what she heard from patients and their families. Sympathy for her patients, she added, powered Ms. Hickey’s zest for solving medical mysteries.
Ms. Hickey died on July 13 at St. Luke’s Meridian Medical Center in Meridian, Idaho. She was 45. Her husband, Robb Hickey, said the cause was COVID-19.
Only two people under 50 have died of COVID-19 in Idaho, according to the state’s Department of Health and Welfare.
During her more than 20 years as a nurse in southwest Idaho, Ms. Hickey trained numerous other nurses and became a mentor to many, her husband said.
“She was,” he said, “a tenacious mama bear.”
Samantha Ray Simonis was born on Oct. 5, 1974, in La Grande, Ore. Her father, Ray, worked as an engineer with the Union Pacific Railroad, and her mother, Linda Huddleston, worked in food services at La Grande Country Club.
Ms. Hickey graduated in 1998 with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, and in 2009 she earned a Master of Science in nursing from Graceland University in Independence, Mo.
She married Dusty Berg in 1994; they divorced in 2009, and she married Robb Hickey the next year. In addition to Hickey, she is survived by two sons from her first marriage, Devan and Jackson Berg; a son, Reed, and a daughter, Blakelee, from her second marriage; and two sisters, Jamie Lester and Rachel Seaman.
After Ms. Hickey graduated from high school at 17, the Portland Trail Blazers considered hiring her for their dance squad, but she was disqualified after those in charge found out she was two years under the minimum age requirement. She was later known to break out into tap-dance routines at home, and she bought her children tap shoes so they could join her.
She encouraged Robb Hickey, who had worked for many years as a paramedic, to attend medical school, which she had once dreamed of doing herself. She supported the family financially while he studied. (He is entering his third year.)
The region around Caldwell, where Samantha Hickey lived and worked, has experienced a steadily growing spike in virus cases in recent weeks. According to Robb Hickey, his wife saw a patient who had tested positive around a week before her death.
The family and the St. Luke’s Health Foundation plan to create a scholarship fund in Samantha Hickey’s name to support nursing education. Friends and relatives said they also hope that Samantha Hickey’s good health and young age draw attention to the seriousness of the virus and the need to follow public health protocols.
“She would want her death to be something that others could learn from,” Belcourt said.