Jensen beats COVID and double pneumonia after 66 days at Redfield hospital
By Shiloh Appel
January 6th, 2021 was Redfield native Darrel Jensen’s 66th and final day at Community Memorial Hospital. After a long battle with COVID-19, double pneumonia, and several close calls with death, 88 year old Jensen was finally cleared to go home, and it was a day for celebration. Hospital hallways were lined with colorful balloons and smiling staff waiting to wish him farewell. Jensen had spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas in the hospital, and drew close to the staff during his time there. Some shed tears.
“I came in and brought him some Strawberry Pretzel Salad on Thanksgiving Day,” said nurse Mckenzie Van Wagner. “Then, the next day, he kind of started going downhill.”
“My numbers were going up all the time. Then they started going down. My lungs filled up with pneumonia. They said you got such a small window left, but the chances are you’re not going to make it,” said Jensen. “When my numbers were down and they called my family in, I said to them, ‘You know, when you are in a car accident or having a severe operation, you know that maybe you won’t come out of it. Now here, you are all sitting around here and you are telling me I’m going to die tonight or tomorrow morning and I feel just as good as I did when I was 20 years old. So how do you explain it, you know?”
However, Jensen did make it through the night. And the next morning. And the morning after that.
“His oxygen level would go up, but then the C02 level started coming up. He couldn’t get rid of the carbon dioxide, you know, the CO2. They said, ‘you’re going to lose consciousness,’” said Jensen’s daughter, Amy. “But he has cheated death more than a couple times, so there is a reason this guy is still here.”
It all started on November 2nd, when Jensen headed to the hospital for a regular checkup, not suspecting anything was wrong.
“When I went up for my doctor’s appointment that morning with Doctor Owens, I had my mail for the post office laying in the pickup and I said, ‘Can I run that to the Post Office?’ He said, ‘No, you’re coming with me,’” said Jensen.
At that time, Jensen had no symptoms except for some fatigue, but his test came out positive for COVID. He went on to spend two weeks in the COVID unit, where he developed pneumonia. He was put on a couple different respiratory therapies and a High-Flow Nasal Canula to aid his breathing, which had become labored after he contracted pneumonia.
“They said at one point his lungs were…he wasn’t going to come back. They said forever he would have to have oxygen. The capacity was down to 20 percent,” said Amy.
Doctors and nurses discussed with Jensen on whether or not he would like to be flown out to Sioux Falls. Nevertheless, Jensen decided to stay in Redfield, and it was soon discovered that, even if he had chosen otherwise, there was no room for him in Sioux Falls.
“I am just kind of giving promo for the hospital, but I am from Minnesota. My brother is from Texas, my sister is in Arizona, I got a friend in Wisconsin who is following this, and they are all saying what [the staff] are doing at Redfield hospital is above and beyond what other places that are huge are doing,” said Amy. “Also, everyone knows you in Redfield. They’ve known you all your life. There are just people checking on him, and not that they wouldn’t at bigger hospitals, but I think that we are so lucky he was able to stay here, or else I don’t think we would be having this talk. Let me put it that way.”
After being released from the COVID unit, Jensen was sent to a regular hospital room to recover and build his strength, but he soon came down with another case of pneumonia.
“I explain it like this: it is just like you are a wadded up bed sheet laying on the floor. You can’t explain it. I haven’t felt bad or had a pain. Except your are just kind of out of it in a way, I guess,” said Jensen. “I think I did lose my appetite. I forced myself to keep eating.”
Jensen kept up his positive attitude, beating both cases of pneumonia and building his strength.
“you about got to stay positive, no matter what they tell you,” said Jensen.
“We were saying earlier that he has a guardian angel in this room,” said nurse Van Wagner, of Jensen’s hospital room. “His wife passed away seven years ago in this room.”
As for advice and encouragement to others going through the same thing, Jensen said to “look on the good side of things” and always stay positive.
“Miracles can happen. They sure can. They did with me, I know,” said Jensen.
In the meantime, going forward, Jensen is continuing to build his strength through physical therapy and occupational therapy. He does both leg exercises and arm exercises.
“They wear you out! You know you’ve done it when you’ve done it. When you are down in the hospital for 60-some days and you are aren’t up a lot, you get so weak, “ said Jensen. “Usually [the workouts] are 45 minutes each. That is a long time.”
Still, Jensen left the hospital with a big smile on January 6th as doctors, nurses and staff clapped and cheered.
“I guess you gotta deal with what they give you, and luckily, I made it,” he said.