WATCH: Casper Man Reunites with Wife After Near Death Experience from COVID-19
21 days. That is how long Daren Bulow was on a ventilator, quite literally clinging to life, after contracting COVID-19 in October of 2020.
Bulow called in sick to work on October 28 of that year. After that, he didn’t remember much of anything until he woke up in a hospital bed on November 4. When he did wake up, he found out that both he and his wife had tested positive for COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus.
“We’re not exactly sure where or how we got COVID,” Bulow explained. “My wife shared an office with a lady who tested positive first and my wife tested positive two days later. But we were wearing masks, we were washing our hands. It could have come from anywhere.”
Because that’s the thing about COVID; it spreads easily and secretively. Those who aren’t even demonstrating symptoms of the virus can still test positive for it, and they can still pass it on to others. That’s what happened in the case of Daren and Christine Bulow and the consequences were dire.
Bulow said that he got sick on the 28 of October and from that day to November 4, he only remembers bits and pieces, “portions of dates.”
He and his wife went to the Emergency Room of Wyoming Medical Center, where they were both told they had tested positive for COVID-19.
“They put both of us in the same room, because we were both positive,” Bulow said. “I was in and out of consciousness by that point, but I know they put me on a Bipap machine, which is a breathing machine.”
Bulow said that he remembers a few occasions in which he had to throw up and, when he did, he noticed that he was throwing up bits of white chunks that he said looked like bits of his lung.
Shortly thereafter, doctors told him that they needed to take a drastic step in order to save his life.
“[The doctor came in and said], ‘You have to go on the ventilator,’” Bulow said. “They had to get my wife’s consent and then they put me on a ventilator for 21 days. And I remember nothing.”
Bulow may not remember anything of those 21 days, but his wife does because, for her, it was the worst three weeks of her life.
“You never know that you’re going to go through something like this,” Christine stated. “To have your spouse get so sick; and I was sick too, but he got put on the ventilator after the second day in the hospital and I knew I had to get better enough to go home.”
When the doctors approached Christine regarding putting her husband on the ventilator, she immediately assumed the worst.
“I didn’t think he made it,” she said. “I thought he was gone because before [they] do something like that, they ask if you want to be resuscitated if they don’t do it right or something bad happens. Obviously, we both said, ‘Yes, the answer is yes!’ but those types of questions kind of put you in a ‘death mode.’”
For Christine, that ‘death mode,’ lasted for 21 days. When she was well enough to leave the hospital, the question then became ‘now what?’
Many people who have dealt with grief will say that staying busy is the easiest way to keep your mind off of things. So that’s what Christine attempted to do.
Shortly after Christine returned from the hospital, she was bombarded with well-wishers. They wanted to know how she was doing, how Daren was doing, could they do anything, our thoughts and prayers are with you, et al. Obviously, these calls and texts and messages were made with the best of intentions, but it all gets a bit overwhelming after a while.
“They were doing it because they cared,” Christine offered. “But I had to stop them from doing it. My cousin actually started fielding calls for me and she would just tell everybody, ‘You’ve got to stop calling her. She’s got to heal too.’ It was just too much. And that’s when I started doing all the big updates. I started posting his condition on Facebook and it just became kind of a ritualistic thing for me to get it out of me.”
It was a way for Christine to cope with what was one of the worst things she had ever experienced. But it also served a dual purpose, according to her husband.
“My wife started to do a daily update, and she would send them out on Facebook,” Bulow said. “Because of that, it reached everywhere. People shared our story literally everywhere. I have 5 sisters in 3 different states and there were people across the country that I’m Facebook friends with and it spread to them. And what I found out after I woke up was that I had thousands upon thousands of people praying for me. And I think that’s a big reason why I made it through this.”
While Christine was trying her very best to get through her days at home, Daren was fighting for his life at the Wyoming Medical Center.
“I found out that the survival rate for COVID-19 patients who require ventilators is only 21%,” Bulow stated. “So eight out of ten people that get put on a ventilator don’t make it.”
Bulow said that if you’re on a ventilator and doctors don’t wake you up by day 10 or so, your chances of survival drop to even less than the original 21%.
In this case, 21 was actually Bulow’s lucky number because, finally, it happened. All of the prayers, all of the positive energy, all of the defiance that Bulow and his wife issued to the universe finally bore the result they were hoping for.
He woke up.
It was a gradual thing. He didn’t spring from the bed, or start shouting “I’m cured!” as he ran down the halls of Wyoming Medical Center. First, it was just his eyes. He opened his eyes, which is something the majority of us take for granted every single day. It wasn’t much, but for Bulow and his wife, it was everything.
“I’m a big believer in God,” Bulow confessed. “I’m a man of God and, during this process, I had a lot of lucid dreams. And in four separate instances, at the ends of those dreams, I am screaming to God that I don’t want to die. So I absolutely believe God had a hand in this because, when that happens, when dreams like that happen, and then I wake up and am told that I’m a miracle…how could you not believe?”
God wasn’t working alone, though. Bulow said he was also under the care of some of the most talented, caring, compassionate medical staff he had ever experienced.
“In my experience at both Wyoming Medical Center and at Casper Mountain Rehabilitation & Care Center, there is just no better care,” he said. “It was incredible. From the interns, to the specialists, to the doctors and nurses. I called my physical therapist my guardian angel. They were all so kind and so generous and so talented.”
Bulow said that once he woke up, he made it a point to know, actually know, the people who saved his life.
“I’m horrible with names,” Bulow revealed. “Usually I forget them right away. But during this time, I made an effort to make sure that I knew all of my nurses’ and doctors’ names, as much as I could. And I would say hi to them and I would ask them how their day was going. They kept telling me that I was a miracle, which was extraordinary, but another thing they told me was that they had never met anybody like me before.”
And it’s easy to see why. Before Bulow was battling for his life against COVID-19, he was a comedian. People call him the “Hunting and Fishing Comedian,” because that’s the material that most of his bits consisted of. Bulow was born to be a storyteller. He was born to make people laugh, and his career was proof of that. Bulow made people laugh, and he did so while remaining family friendly. He didn’t need to focus on controversial topics in order to make people laugh. He just had to share his mind and his heart.
As a comedian, Bulow always focused on the positive, and he did the exact same thing during his recovery from COVID-19. He focused on the positive. Which is exactly what he needed to do because, after finally waking up, Bulow had to undergo extensive physical therapy. He was transferred from Wyoming Medical Center to Casper Mountain Rehabilitation & Care Center and, there, the second verse was the same as the first. He kept a smile. He kept cracking jokes. He learned the names of everybody he came into contact with and, most importantly, he was continually reminded that he was a miracle, that he was safe, and that he was loved.
And nobody loves him more than his wife.
“We just always got along,” Christine said of her husband. “We have a lot of the same goals and he’s got a great family. He makes me laugh. It’s never been hard with us.”
That is, until COVID. But isn’t that when love is the strongest? When backs are against the wall, when chips are down, when it’s do or die- that’s when love prevails. And when Daren Bulow was unconsciously screaming at God that he didn’t want to die, God took notice. As storybooks have shown us, love is stronger than death. And the love between Daren and Christine Bulow was strong enough to bring him, quite literally, back from the dead.
While Bulow was fighting, Christine was fighting as well. She was trying her best to live her life, every day, while her husband clung to his. Not knowing when, or if, he would ever be coming home was the hardest thing she’s ever had to face. So when she got word that he was going to be okay, she could finally let out the breath she had been holding in since October 28.
“He is coming back from the dead,” Christine said. “There were times that he was going to die in the hospital. And then, even when he got to [the rehab hospital], he couldn’t walk and he could hardly hold up his head. So they’ve done amazing things with him in the almost 30 days that he’s been here. He’s come a long way. He’s got a strong heart, soul, and will to live. We’re the lucky ones.”
And after three months, luck finally had its day. Approximately three months after he found out he had COVID-19, Bulow was finally able to leave the hospital, finally able to kiss his wife.
He was finally able to go home.
She waited with baited breath. It was hard enough to breathe in the facemask she was wearing, even without all of the anxiety. But she did it anyway. Because she knew how important masks were.
Still, her breath caught in her throat on multiple occasions. She hoped for this day, longed for this day, but she didn’t know if it would ever come. In fact, until she was actually standing in the lobby of the hospital, she didn’t allow herself to believe that her husband, the love of her life, would actually be coming home.
But now he was. As his nurse picked up his gym bag and gestured toward the door, he took one last look at the room he spent so much time in. There were moments that he hated this room. He felt confined, restricted. Because he just wanted to go home to be with his wife. But those moments passed, because he knew he was doing important work- for his body and for his mind.
And now, taking one last look around, he was grateful. He was grateful for his doctors, his nurses, his physical therapists, and more. He was grateful for the jokes he was able to make, and the smiles he was able to produce. More than anything, though, he was just grateful to be alive.
And then he started walking. It was the longest walk of his life because, for three months, he hadn’t been able to walk at all. This moment seemed like a pipe dream. He didn’t know if it would ever happen. But it finally was. As he took step after step, he said a little prayer. He thanked God for giving him his life back and he swore that he would use whatever time he has left to make a difference in the world. He would laugh harder, live better, and love more.
And there was nobody he loved more than his wife. As the nurses opened the curtain and he entered the lobby, tears immediately trickled down his cheeks. The sight of her, even after all these years, still gave him butterflies.
He walked to her, took her in his arms, and summed up the entire experience in just three words.
“We made it.”
LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions
While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.