Former legislator and congressional candidate Leland Christensen is in a medically induced coma due to complications from COVID-19, family members told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.
Christensen’s son Hunter said his father, a former state senator from Teton County, contracted COVID in December and was admitted to the hospital on Dec. 19.
Leland was subsequently moved to the intensive care unit in an Idaho Falls, Idaho, hospital and has been in a coma since late December.
Hunter said his father is making “baby steps” and added he is optimistic about his recovery.
“Leland had another relatively good day today,” Hunter said. “He continued to hold onto the progress he made last week and his lungs made another baby step in the right direction.”
What makes the recovery more difficult, Hunter said, was Leland’s ongoing but successful battle with cancer.
“The doctors have told us that due to the chemo complications, it is going to be a long journey to recovery,” Hunter said.
Family friend Dana MacKenzie started a GoFundMe page on Sunday to assist with medical costs. As of Monday afternoon, more than $25,000 had been donated.
“The long ICU and hospital stay, medical bills and treatments keeping him with us have like many families burdened them with medical costs that are expected to be in far into 6 digits,” MacKenzie wrote on the page.
Hunter said the family has received messages of encouragement from friends all over the country as well as questions about what can be done to help.
Prayer, he said.
“We know that many of you have asked whether there is something specific you could pray for — please pray that he will continue to be stable and build on the progress he has made so far,” Hunter wrote on the page.
Christensen, who served in the Wyoming Legislature for eight years, has served as state director for U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ office for the past year.
“Leland is Wyoming through and through,” Lummis told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.
“He is the definition of a public servant, as a veteran, former sheriff and legislator, and now as my state director. He’s more than that though: He is a beloved husband and father, and a dear friend to me and so many others. We ask everyone in our state to join us in supporting Leland and his family with their prayers during this difficult time,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who ran against Leland in 2016 for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat, also expressed encouragement.
“Leland is tough and a real fighter. We are praying for his full recovery and sending good thoughts and support to the Christensen family,” Cheney told Cowboy State Daily.
Longtime friend and Senate colleague Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower) said he was going to visit Leland in the hospital this weekend. He said although it was doubtful he would be allowed in the same room, he wanted to show support for Christensen and his family.
“This brings tears to my eyes,” Driskill said. “I’ve never met in my life a finer person than Leland. I say that from the bottom of my heart. He’s the best friend of my entire life.”
Former Rep. Tyler Lindholm, who served with Leland in the legislature, encouraged Wyoming citizens to donate to the GoFundMe page.
“This disease has attacked one of Wyoming’s finest. Thankfully he is still with us but needs our help more than ever. I’m thankful for the GoFundMe page so we can help the family. I’m doing that,” Lindholm said.
“Leland embodies Wyoming in so many ways including an inherent toughness,” said noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich. Knowing Leland, that toughness will serve him well right now”
Leland is a father of six children and a grandfather to 13 with another grandchild due in the spring.
Bank of Jackson Hole has created an account to directly support Christensen. For those who wish to avoid fees associated with GoFundMe, Bank of Jackson Hole has set up an account for the family to accept donations.
Anyone can contribute in any of our branches (Jackson, Wilson, Teton Village, Dubois, Pinedale and Alpine) and deposit money into that account (Account name: FBO Leland Christensen). BoJH can also accept donations by mail at P O Box 7000, Jackson, WY 83002.