From the Sidelines to the Hospital Bed: Local Man Shares Experience With COVID-19

From the Sidelines to the Hospital Bed: Local Man Shares Experience With COVID-19

Darin Anderson throws up a peace sign after finding out he tested positive for COVID-19 on October 22, 2020. Courtesy photo

Listen below to Darin Anderson’s full story in his own words

Darin Anderson is just one of thousands who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Wyoming. He also happens to be one of the many in the state who have been hospitalized and nearly lost his life.

He’s lucky to be alive.

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Anderson and his family live in Rock Springs where he wears many hats as a husband, father, teacher and coach in multiple sports. Before his encounter with COVID-19, Anderson said he was like many other people and thought the chances of getting it were very low, and if he did, there wasn’t much to worry about considering his age and health.

The first symptoms of COVID-19 appeared on October 17, 2020, on Anderson and his wife’s wedding anniversary, which wasn’t exactly the circumstances they had hoped to be finding themselves in.

“It was some time during that day that I started feeling congested,” Anderson said. “I took some cold medicine and I thought that’s all it was. But I do remember I felt different.”

Anderson’s congestion and fatigue was soon followed up with a fever the next day. His initial thought was that it could be COVID-19, but he ultimately talked himself out of it, convincing himself that the odds were too slim and he had followed all the precautions of mask wearing and social distancing.

Over the next few days, Anderson’s condition worsened and he wasn’t getting any better. Eventually, he was admitted to the emergency room at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County and a test result came back positive for COVID-19.

At first, he thought he would be like the Nick Sabans of the world and be back on the sidelines within three days. As the story unfolded, however, he wasn’t quite that lucky.

The doctor advised Anderson that the second week of his illness would be worse than the first and his health would greatly improve thereafter. He was then released from the emergency room the same day and returned back home.

“That’s when things got worse,” Anderson said.

Over the course of the next week, Anderson experienced a loss of appetite, inability to sleep, loss of strength and severe dehydration.

I didn’t have the energy or life to even watch TV or check my phone. I really didn’t do anything other than lay there. I honestly couldn’t do anything.

Anderson said he remembers nothing from that week other than his inability to keep food down and a few Hallmark Christmas movies he listened to. His wife later told him that she would walk in on him and he would be laying in bed staring at the ceiling.

“One of things I remember is that my wife would watch Hallmark Christmas movies,” Anderson said. “I remember lying there listening to the dialogue and I guess it kind of kept me going because it was something I didn’t have to put effort towards, it was just given to me.”

Thinking back on what the doctor had said about the second week being worse than the first with improvement following afterwards was the only hope Anderson held on to.

“I just kept hoping for that and banking on it that it would get better,” Anderson said.

But things didn’t improve.

After a virtual visit with a doctor out of Colorado, Anderson was told he needed to go back to the emergency room. The second trip to the hospital resulted in a chest X-ray, which showed the beginning stages of pneumonia. After receiving some antibiotics and treatment, he was again sent home.

Darin Anderson and his wife Shandon Anderson on the day of their wedding anniversary in 2020. His first COVID-19 symptoms started on that day. Courtesy photo

About a week later, Anderson had gained some strength back, but struggled to breathe and do much outside of his home. He did manage to make a trip to the mall with his son to buy basketball shoes for his upcoming basketball season. It was the first time he had driven and gone out on his own in three weeks.

“It was hard to walk around,” Anderson said. “I got back from the mall and I was super tired. I was only gone for about 45 minutes. I sat down and rested through the remainder of that day.”

The next day after the mall trip, Anderson began to feel a sharp pain in his chest and neck. He thought it might have been stiffness from sitting around, but the pain didn’t subside. His wife recommended they go back to the emergency room, but he had no intentions on making another visit.

Persistence on his wife’s part might have saved his life. After another phone call with a healthcare professional, Anderson was finally convinced to make his third visit to the emergency room.

Another X-ray and CT-scan revealed blood clots in Anderson’s left lung. More tests and scans were done to check for blood clots in other areas which came back negative, but required him to spend two days in the hospital. His 6-foot, 8-inch frame crammed into the hospital bed is what he described as the most uncomfortable situation he had ever been in.

“I still had tremendous pain and it was a really uncomfortable situation,” Anderson said. “I watched a lot of terrible TV.”

A Long Recovery

Once again returning home from the hospital, Anderson finally began to recover from COVID-19, but he didn’t expect his recovery to take so long.

Each day he would climb the stairs in his basement, taking each one very slowly. Four or five steps would leave him winded.

“That’s how weak I was and how hard it was to breathe,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s medication and oxygen over the next two weeks helped him get back to a point where he could return to work and return to the sidelines coaching. In his own words, when he returned to school his health “was about 70 to 75 percent.”

“It took me forever to walk the hallway,” Anderson said. “I had no strength, no energy. It was still super hard to breathe. There was a point for four or five days that I had laryngitis and I couldn’t talk.”

Slowly but surely, Anderson’s health improved and he was able to return back to his normal life again.

However, Anderson said the story you don’t hear about often is how people still have issues months later. Almost three months from when he first tested positive for COVID-19, he still isn’t 100 percent himself.

“Even now I’m still between 90 and 95 percent,” Anderson said. “It’s still hard to breathe a lot of the times. My strength still isn’t back to what it was and that’s going to take some time. I still have a cough that appears from time to time. I get cold really easily which never happened much before. I forget things. I’m never one to lock my keys in my truck.”

Staying Positive

Anderson, who nearly lost his life to appendicitis earlier in his life, said COVID-19 is the worst sickness he has ever had. But although the five-week experience was one of the darker times in his life, he did learn a lot about himself, family, faith and others. Most notable of those lessons is the importance of relying on God.

“There were times when I was lying in bed, wondering if I was going to make it,” Anderson said.

I will never let anyone make me believe that God did not have a hand in saving my life through this and helping my family through this.

Many others helped the Anderson family with bringing in meals, reaching out through texts and social media and even helping pay for expensive medical bills. He said the generosity of others has helped him gain a greater perspective of his role in this pandemic.

“It didn’t hit home until it hit our home,” Anderson said. “Since then, I’ve had coworkers and friends who have gotten it and I’ve had more sympathy and the ability to reach out to them.”

Anderson said he believes COVID-19 has been politicized and that no matter what you believe, it is a real disease that “can impact people in a really bad way.”

“When things are tough people can rally and help each other,” Anderson said. “I think that’s what we need to do not only with COVID, but all kinds of difficulties we face in the world today with disagreements, riots, disease and lockdowns. It doesn’t matter who we are or what we are up to, but that people are going to help out.”