CASPER, Wyo. – Christine Bulow, 56, and her husband, Daren, 54, weren’t feeling well in late October when they both got tested for COVID-19. By the time her test came back a few days later, she was already feeling miserable.
On Nov. 1, they felt bad enough to make a trip to the Wyoming Medical Center’s E.R., where they were given supplements and steroids but sent home.
By Nov. 5, their conditions had deteriorated enough that they returned to the E.R.
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This time they stayed.
Daren grew up in a farming family in northern Iowa. He moved to Wyoming to attend the University of Wyoming. “He came out to Wyoming because he was looking for a college to go to,” said Christine. “He saw those mountains and he was like, ‘well I’m never going anywhere else!’”
Christine was born in Riverton and moved to Casper with her family in 5th grade, and is an NCHS grad.
They were in their mid-30s when they met at a wedding, where Daren was the best man.
“His friends wanted him to find a nice girl,” recalls Christine, adding with a laugh that 10 potential dates were invited by Daren’s friends and only she showed up.
“I went and introduced myself at the party, which was out of my wheelhouse. After we met we were just ready to have a person in our lives.”
They camp and travel with their dogs, and Daren enjoys hunting.
Daren puts his farming background to good use with his job at TrueGreen. Christine is an independent massage therapist.
Christine and Daren don’t smoke, never have. Christine says Daren’s breathing can sometimes become irritated when smoke from wildfires drifts into Casper. While he’s never been diagnosed with a condition, she theorizes his childhood in a smoking household might offer some clue.
They both did their best to avoid contracting COVID-19, but by late October it was surging hard in Wyoming and hospital beds were rapidly filling.
“We were both very ill,” said Christine, describing their decision to return to the WMC. “They had us both in the E.R. for the whole day because they were trying to find us a room together.”
COVID-19 patients at the WMC hovered around five or fewer most of the time since the pandemic started in March. By November, they numbered in the dozens.
Still, Christine and Daren were given a single room. With oxygen and medications, Christine’s condition started to turn around while Daren’s did not.
“I was up all night and just trying to help him,” she said. He suffered muscle spasms while placed on his stomach to help him breath, and staff tried different methods to deliver more oxygen.
Hours of struggle followed before the news they both dreaded was delivered by their doctor.
“They said ‘we think it’s time that we’re going to have to put you on a ventilator because you’re trying so hard,’” recalled Christine, her voice quivering. “He said, ‘I don’t want to do that.’”
“They knew if they didn’t get him intubated that he would probably go into cardiac arrest and just die right there,” she said.
Since Daren would be put under general anesthesia and require extensive care, Christine would have to say goodbye and be moved to her own room.
“We just said, ‘I love you, I love you so much. We have got to make it through this. I just hugged him so hard,” she said.
“That last hug and kiss, and he watched me get whisked out of that room…and it was the worst moment of my life. I didn’t know if I was ever going to see him alive again…I still don’t.”
Within a few days, Christine was well enough to be sent home to recover, leaving her husband at the WMC on a ventilator.
She has “brain fog,” and feels fatigued, but her lung functions have improved and only needs oxygen at night.
“There’s so much mental processing that has to be done with every little thing I do,” she says. She has family to help, and her pets to comfort her.
She has seen Daren at least three times via Zoom calls with the help of WMC staff.
Once she watched as staff ran an “awakening trial” to see how his body functions while slowly lowering the sedation meds. It was difficult to watch, she said, but she cherished the chance to talk to him.
“I’m talking to him, and he actually turned his head towards the phone and tried so hard to open his eye,” she said.
“And I got to see his eye, just a little bit of his blue eye. It was really great, but hard to see him struggle like that.”
As Christine waits and hopes for Daren’s recovery, she feels angry and frustration at people who don’t take the virus seriously, particularly heading into the holiday season.
As of Tuesday, only one ICU bed was available at the Wyoming Medical Center, and the number of COVID-19 patients was at 68, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
“Trust me when I say that you DO NOT WANT THIS VIRUS INVADING YOUR BODY,” she recently posted on her Facebook page.
“This is a horrible outbreak we are in right now this very second and it just takes a tiny little bit of personal responsibility to help STOP THIS FROM SPREADING!”
The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:
What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.
If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.
Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.
For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email: email@example.com
- Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Stay home if you’re sick
- Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
- Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.