Indio resident Erin Teran has a variety of first-hand experience with COVID-19—as both a nurse and as an individual who had the disease.
Teran, 40, was born in Palm Springs and raised in Indio; she comes from a local family that goes back generations.Both her father and grandfather attended high school in the Coachella Valley, and Teran’s own commitment to the area included a run for the Indio City Council last year. The idea of service comes from her father, a person she describes as “fun-loving, generous and someone who becomes friends with everyone. He taught me to treat everyone equally, or better, and that there’s always enough to take care of others who may not have enough. He’s really the hero in my life. If I can live my life the way he’s lived his, I’d look back and be happy with the outcome.”
Teran’s father—whose own dad worked in agriculture, and whose mom drove a school bus—earned a degree in recreation and worked with local Boys Clubs for many years.
“He always said he had a lot of kids,” Teran says, “and he always gave back to others.”
Teran says her mother taught her the importance of a strong work ethic.
“She was the one who always had to get up early and go to work,” Teran says. “She graduated college while I was in high school, and went on to earn a master’s degree in education and became executive director of the COD Alumni Association. She was clearly a feminist and had a huge impact on me. She always said I might be treated differently and have to work harder, but I could have whatever I wanted.”
Teran is an only child—and laughs when she notes that her parents always said they got it right the first time.
After high school, Teran worked at a law firm, which paid for her to become a paralegal. She spent 10 years working as a paralegal and legal secretary, working on real estate and probate. She eventually went back to school for an English-literature degree, and she planned to go to law school.
Teran lost the man she calls the love of her life 20 years ago—just two weeks after their daughter was born.
“I consider my daughter one of my heroes,” Teran says. “When we lost her dad, I wanted to just lay down and die. She gave me a reason to keep going and be better. I’ve not only known loss in my job, but also in my life. Everything can make me cry—weddings, babies, friendships—and I’ve cried a lot during the pandemic.”
When Teran’s father’s wife got cancer, Teran watched as numerous nurses cared for her stepmother—and the experience led her to go to nursing school. After becoming a registered nurse, she worked at Desert Regional Medical Center, and had a stint as a union representative.
“We didn’t have enough PPE (personal protective equipment), and I became very vocal,” Teran says. “Unfortunately, that led to a lot of pushback. I’m not very good at keeping my mouth shut, and I was concerned about my co-workers. I decided it just wasn’t healthy for me to stay there any longer.
“Last August, I got COVID,” she says. “I was out of work for about eight weeks, and I then accepted a part-time nursing position in Indio, and then had the opportunity to do travel nursing.
“I was at El Centro Regional Medical Center when they were at their peak with the virus. On my first shift there, I had two codes (indicating cardiopulmonary arrest). I had one shift to train to care for six very sick patients. I remember having a man reach for my hand. He had been fine, and then suddenly, he looked so scared. After that patient died, I sat in my car and cried for an hour. I posted what was happening to me (on social media) and had thousands of views. I thought it was important for people to see the raw emotion.
“Becoming a nurse is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It has given me the opportunity to give back. I love what I do: Taking care of others.”
Teran’s commitment to the community also includes political activism. The Independent first met Teran last June, when she helped organize the #NoMoreHashtags protest in Indio, following the death of George Floyd.
“I’ve always been one to speak up when I see that something is wrong,” Teran says. “When Donald Trump was president, I felt strongly the need to get involved on a local level.”
Teran became a member of the Democratic Women of the Desert and served on the board. After working on a successful local political campaign, she decided to make a run of her own for a seat on the Indio City Council in 2020.
“With the pandemic happening, I decided to just go for it,” she says.
Teran lost the election—but says she never felt disappointed.
“When the votes came in, I saw how many people had put their confidence in me,” she says. “I may decide to do it again. I’ll definitely stay involved; I’m not going away.”
Teran is currently serving as the program chair for the Democrats of the Desert.
Although she’s still battling some lingering symptoms due to COVID-19, Teran says she is looking forward to a new chapter in life.
“I’ve always been a people-pleaser, but now I can just be true to myself,” she says. “I’ll certainly continue giving back to the community. I love Indio and the people who live here.”