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'All My Organs Shut Down' | Maryland Man Shares His COVID Survival Story, Says He's Grateful For Second Chance

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- COVID-19 has sickened almost half a million people in Maryland, killing more than 8,700 in our state alone.

Darnell Davis considers himself one of the lucky ones. After almost dying last year, the realtor said he has no long-term problems.

Darnell Davis
Darnell Davis in the hospital; photo courtesy Darnell Davis

WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren spoke to Davis one year after he left Shock Trauma.

"Standing here, the world is brighter to me, different to me. This has been a transformative experience," Davis told Hellgren.

He now walks four miles a day and cherishes every day after his long COVID-19 battle.

"They told my wife easily around three times to make funeral arrangements for me," he said. "My lungs collapsed. My heart stopped working. I had renal failure. All of my organs shut down."

It started with a cough and days of weakness, then a positive COVID test at Pimlico.

His wife—knowing he was at higher risk because of his diabetes—took Davis to GBMC in Towson. He initially did not want to go.

"She gave me the ultimatum," he said.

But even in the hospital, Davis' condition got worse and a ventilator was not enough.

He needed a special treatment called ECMO—extracorporeal membrane oxygenation—essentially artificial lungs because his were not working.

Tubes inserted into his body connected to the machine and brought oxygen into his blood.

The only available ECMO was at Shock Trauma in downtown Baltimore and getting there from GBMC was risky.

Darnell Davis hospital
Darnell Davis in the hospital; photo courtesy Darnell Davis

"They told my wife that if she decides to keep me here, I'm dead. That if she allows them to transport me, there's a 90% chance that I won't even survive the transport from GBMC to the University of Maryland," Davis said. "That's how fragile a state I was in."

He made it to Shock Trauma alive -- barely.

But the most difficult part of his journey was yet to come.

"This is real. I didn't know it could be as devastating to the human body," Davis said.

For 17 days, the ECMO machine took over, supplying Darnell with oxygen as a team of specialists monitored him around the clock.

He eventually was able to breathe again without ECMO. First, he was on a ventilator then was able to breathe on his own.

Darnell Davis wife
Darnell Davis and his wife; photo courtesy Darnell Davis

"When you had a first conversation. Were able to talk to your wife? What was that like for you?" Hellgren asked.

"I just cried. Yeah, I just cried," Davis said. "I just got to see her again."

Darnell is now back at work and feels better than he has in years.

"I don't have any lasting effects," he said. "I don't have any fatigue, the fogginess, anything like that."

He got vaccinated as soon as he could: Pfizer at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Darnell Davis vaccination
Davis getting his vaccine; photo courtesy UMMS

Davis has this message to those who are reluctant to do the same: "I would rather you get sick for two days because of the vaccine than to go through what I went through. I would not wish this on my enemy, literally. I mean that with everything that's in me. If Covid didn't kill me, I'm pretty sure the vaccine won't."

He can't wait to hold his newborn grandson and live his second chance at life to the fullest.

Darnell Davis grandson
Davis' grandson; photo courtesy Darnell Davis

"The love I have for my family, my wife, my children, I wasn't ready to go. And I never said it, I just did it," Davis said. "I'm not the same person I was when I went in. I have more empathy, compassion and love. If anyone you know doesn't believe how serious COVID is, tell them to give me a call."

If you want more information about how to get a vaccine here in Maryland, click this link. 

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department's website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ's coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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