PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – In spring of 2021, Daryl and Andrea Osborn were constantly on the move. It was baseball season and as the parents of three young boys, their lives were moving just as fast as their sons were rounding the bases.
However, COVID-19 would bring everything to a crashing halt. Within a few weeks, Daryl went from an active father working full-time to a man confined to a hospital bed in a coma.
In late May, COVID-19 cases in Washington were decreasing and Gov. Jay Inslee had recently announced that fully-vaccinated people would be allowed to participate in both indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask.
The Eatonville, Washington couple was looking forward to the COVID-19 pandemic loosening its grip on their lives. They’d started hanging out with friends again, attending barbecues and parties, and occasionally dining at restaurants.
It was an especially exciting time for the family as they prepared for the birth of their fourth son, who was due early that summer.
Even as things returned to normal, the Osborns knew the pandemic wasn’t over and were trying to avoid spreading or catching the virus.
“We always took the precautions of going out wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, doing all the precautions of trying to prevent it as much as we could,” Daryl Osborn said.
They’d been so cautious that when Osborn first developed symptoms, he didn’t think it was COVID-19.
It was May 31, the day of his oldest son’s birthday, when Osborn woke up feeling horrible. He had body aches, was coughing and lost his sense of taste and smell. The family started to quarantine and a couple days later Osborn took a COVID-19 test that came back positive.
“I waited a couple more days and I just was not getting better. My wife Andrea took me to the urgent care. Within I would say probably two hours at the urgent care, I was ambulanced to our hospital in Puyallup, Good Samaritan, and I spent six days there and my body crashed,” he said.
Doctors intubated Osborn to help him breathe and he needed an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, or ECMO machine. The machine pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest.
The machines were in short supply during the pandemic and medical care staff said if Osborn was not put on an ECMO machine by June 12, he would likely not survive.
There weren’t any machines available in the state of Washington. The two locations with the life-saving machines were a hospital in Sacramento, California and Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. The Osborns decided to have him flown to Portland on June 12, just in time to get to the machine.
“At this point, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to have a husband by the next day,” Andrea Osborn said.
Osborn was placed in a coma on the same day he was flown to OHSU.
His wife Andrea couldn’t travel to Portland when her husband was transferred because she and her three sons also contracted COVID-19 and were still quarantining. She had mild symptoms and her boys were asymptomatic. She said watching her husband suffer from a distance was extremely stressful.
“I’m, what, eight and a half months pregnant and instantly my body was starting to stress out. I was getting contractions here and there,” she remembered.
Thankfully, Osborn’s father could be there. He lived in Idaho, but came to Portland right away. He rented a room from someone in the city so he could spend almost every day with his son. When he wasn’t there, Daryl’s mother was there, or Andrea came after she recovered from the virus.
Osborn was in a coma from June 12 to August 4. His wife describes those 54 days as a “rollercoaster.”
The COVID-19 diagnosis and intubation were just the start of Osborn’s health concerns. In addition to the ECMO machine, Osborn was placed on a dialysis machine. His right lung collapsed and he experienced kidney failure. Doctors also discovered a bleeding ulcer in Osborn’s body that was clogging the ECMO machine.
The ulcer required two surgeries to repair it.
“My first time seeing him, I think it was maybe a week after he’d been there, it was the most stressful thing I think I ever had to go through and scary because I didn’t know what I was going to walk into,” Andrea said. She said she’d never seen so many tubes and IV lines attached to a person before.
While still in a coma, Osborn said doctors needed to put him on blood pressure medication. The medicine caused his hands to swell and caused permanent damage to his lower extremities. He developed gangrene in his feet and had seven toes either partially or fully amputated.
At one point, Osborn’s condition grew so grim that his care team told his family members they might want to say goodbye.
“Obviously I didn’t know because I was in a coma, but my dad was telling me the story that there was a point in time where they had my family come out and basically said, ‘Hey, this is probably the last time you may see your son, your relative, your grandson alive,” Osborn said, fighting back tears at the thought.
Andrea remembers that phone call came during the Fourth of July weekend. She said she was panicking and her mother kept reminding her to have faith.
About four hours later, she received a phone call saying his condition had stabilized.
On July 19, Andrea gave birth to their son, Grayson, while her husband was still in a coma. She said the birth went smoothly, but it was still an extremely emotional time.
“During the days I’d grown to smile, show the kids that everything was OK, but at nighttime I’d lay in bed and cry,” she said.
Andrea emailed her husband’s attending nurse the day she gave birth and sent him a photo of Grayson. The next day, that picture of Osborn’s newborn son was taped above his bed.
After that, Andrea said her husband started showing signs of noticeable improvement. Every day he progressed until August 4, when he opened his eyes and saw that picture of his baby boy staring back at him.
“I kind of had a freak-out moment, and obviously I can’t talk. I’m trying to mess with words and you know, I’m freaking out,” Osborn said.
He woke up scared in a strange place and realized he had missed the birth of his son. At the time, he couldn’t tell people how he felt because the intubation left him unable to speak.
Osborn was awake and he wasn’t sick anymore, but he still had a long road to recovery. Because of all the medical setbacks he had while in a coma, doctors took extra precautions before releasing him. After lying in a hospital bed for months, Osborn couldn’t walk and couldn’t stand. He practiced physical therapy to regain his strength.
His wife and family members in Eatonville also needed to prepare their home for a hospital bed and had to construct a ramp for a wheelchair.
Finally, two months after waking up, Osborn met his new son Grayson on October 4. A week later, he returned home.
It’s been about a year since Osborn entered a coma. He said when he left OHSU, he couldn’t imagine he’d be doing this well seven months later. He’s walking unassisted; he only needs oxygen at night; and he’s back to working from home full-time.
Osborn said he still has no idea how he contracted COVID-19, but he’s glad to be on the other side of it.
The word he uses to describe how he feels after the medical battle he fought is “thankful.” He’s thankful for his support system, thankful for the doctors and care providers at OHSU, thankful for his wife for pushing him to recover, and thankful to be alive.
“I’m thankful every day that I did wake up and that I’m here,” he said