Darnell Davis

COVID-19 survivor Darnell Davis spent 31 days in Shock Trauma at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Photo by Ursula V. Battle

Part I of a Two-Part Series on Darnell Davis

Recalling the days leading up to his hospitalization for COVID-19, Darnell Davis reflected on the conversation that took place between he and his wife Daven Spencer Davis.

“It was April of 2020, and I started to feel funny,” he said. “I tried to self-isolate, but my condition worsened. Eventually my wife told me that if I did not feel better by the end of the week, we were setting up an appointment with my doctor. My doctor sent me to Pimlico to be tested for COVID-19, and on April 27, I was sent to Greater Baltimore Medical Center. By April 30, they were telling my wife that if I stayed there, I would die. When I arrived at Shock Trauma, I was literally dead when I got there.”

“My lungs were white with COVID and I was part of the early phase of COVID patients. I was very sick. My wife was told to start making funeral arrangements for me.”

Davis, who was 55 at the time and has since turned 56, was originally admitted to Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) after being diagnosed with  COVID-19. On April 30, 2020, he was transferred to Shock Trauma at the University of Maryland Medical Center and was having difficulty breathing. There, doctors placed him on advanced life support— ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, for 17 days, with a heart-lung machine doing the work of his lungs to provide oxygen to his body. Davis also went into acute renal failure and was assisted by another lifesaving machine to help filter his blood and temporarily replace his kidneys.

“At some point, every major organ failed— kidneys, heart, lungs,” said Mrs. Davis. “He also needed a massive blood transfusion after heavy doses of blood thinners used with ECMO caused life-threatening bleeding.”

Davis would ultimately spend 31 days at Shock Trauma, nearly dying several times.

“When I went to GBMC, I walked into the building even though my oxygen was very low, and my organs were shutting down,” said Davis, who was recently honored at the 31st annual R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Celebration of Heroes. “My right lung had completely collapsed. There are things that took place during my journey with COVID that doctors are still scratching their heads about. I’m supposed to be dead.”

Laura S. Buchanan, MD, an Assistant Professor, Trauma/Surgical Critical Care, and a faculty member of the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center of the University of Maryland, was among the doctors who treated Davis after his arrival at Shock Trauma.

“Mr. Davis was like many of the patents we see with COVID who initially had gone to another hospital where they did everything that they could possibly do for him— but worsen and look like they are going to die,” said Dr. Buchanan. “They are transferred here for ECMO, and parts of their body are already shutting down. That’s where Mr. Davis was when he came to us.”

She also noted that Mr. Davis also had a pulley catheter, which is a bladder drain. That is a normal part of ICU when patients are that sick to monitor rental functions. Mr. Davis bled from the site where the tube was placed—a complication from necessary therapy. After his arrival at Shock Trauma, there was a huge team of doctors and nurses that took care of him. Anyone who is that ill, we are working constantly to keep them alive. There is no treatment for the COVID, so we are trying to give their body a chance to heal and recover from the COVID infection.”

Jessica Bradford was among Mr. Davis’ nurses.

“I took care of Mr. Davis” Bradford said. “I saw him from the time he came in up until he was discharged. After things were controlled, he started to get well. I remember him being extremely nice. He would ask us to turn on Pandora, and also Facetimed his wife and children. He also joked about us looking like aliens,” chuckled Bradford, recalling Davis seeing the medical staff dressed in their personal protection gear. “He was always happy to see us,”

She added, “I worked the night shift, and I would see him doing his exercises in bed. Mr. Davis had such a drive and fight in him. He had a drive like no other.”

Coming Next Week— Part 2: Darnell Davis – A COVID survivor with a new lease on life.

Darnell Davis Hospital

Darnell Davis during his hospitalization at Shock Trauma. Courtesy Photo/Darnell Davis