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Darren's Journey: Covid-19, Emergency Surgery and the Healing Bed. Part 2 of 2

Darren Walters Pt 2

Darren’s Journey: Covid-19, Emergency Surgery and the Healing Bed

Part Two of Two

By Jim Sliney Jr

In Part 1 of Darren’s Story, “Darren's Journey: From Prison and Addiction to a Beacon of Hope” we met Darren Walters, a man whose life began with institutionalization and incarceration in 1970s New York City. Darren spent over two decades addicted to drugs and in and out of prison until, in his 40s, he found Beacon of Hope, a division of Catholic Charities Community Services. They helped him overcome addiction, get a home, learn life skills and gave him a second chance at life. But Darren’s challenges weren’t over yet.

DARREN’S HEALTH TAKES A BAD TURN

In 2015, while working at his cousin’s restaurant, Darren began to have difficulty walking. He developed pain in his knees and in his foot. He pushed himself but was unable to work on his feet for the long hours needed in the restaurant. He hung up his apron, but over the coming years, his pain became progressively worse. Beacon of Hope connected Darren with a doctor. Darren also had severe dental problems, typical for people who spent years in prison, so Beacon of Hope assisted Darren with his dental services.

In early 2020, x-rays revealed that Darren had a damaged and dislocated hip. This was making his knee and foot pain worse. His doctor scheduled him for surgery – a surgery that unfortunately happened in March of 2020.

COVID-19

Darren had his hip replaced and was transferred to a skilled rehabilitation facility/nursing home in the Bronx to receive the physical therapy. The day after he was admitted to that facility Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in New York State due to the Coronavirus.

Over the next two weeks, Darren experienced the unspeakable impact of COVID-19 in that long-term nursing facility. “It was terrible. Staff just began to disappear until there was hardly any left. In the hallways, you could hear old people crying. We couldn’t see loved ones. We had a hard time getting our pain medications. There was one man, he had no legs, and he couldn’t get any help. I helped him. I gave him underpants and a tee-shirt because he didn’t have any. I listened to him talk. He was alone and afraid.”

Darren didn’t know it but the man-with-no-legs was displaying symptoms of Covid-19. He even came across another patient, a man, dead in his own bed. Darren was terrified.

Darren did what many of us might have in that horrifying situation. He left against the advice of his medical team, postponed his rehabilitation and corrective therapy, and returned home to his apartment at the height of COVID-19.

CHALLENGE OF RECOVERY DURING COVID

The day after he got home, he also got sick with fever and coughing. Darren could still barely walk, and COVID testing was not yet available. Catholic Charities’ Beacon of Hope stepped in. They made sure he remained quarantined in his apartment, which he did, for three straight weeks while he slowly recovered. During that time his case worker made sure he got food-pantry deliveries left at his door. They also arranged telehealth with his doctor who gave him needed medical attention and pain support for his hip.

Months later when testing became available, Darren learned that he had indeed been infected with the Coronavirus. Though he had recovered from that, while quarantined at home he missed the specialized therapy for his knees and hip. His recovery was significantly derailed.

Beacon of Hope worked with Darren’s insurance to secure round-trip car services to take him back and forth to physical therapy and to see his doctor. But soon, in the face of the pandemic’s unprecedented challenges, the patient transport companies changed their protocols and it became much more difficult to get driven to and from appointments. His pain persisted and he started losing the progress he had made.

HEALING

To help ease some of Darren’s pain and encourage his mobility, Beacon of Hope purchased, delivered and installed an adjustable bed. With his new bed, Darren was able to get in and out of bed more easily and take pressure off his back, hip, pelvis, and knees. A reduction in pain allows him to sleep better, improving his overall quality of life.

Darren’s long tale of redemption and recovery began when he was a child, with a disadvantage that was no fault of his own. His childhood mental illness set him on a path pitted with misfortune, designed to fail. But despite his choices and his circumstances, Catholic Charities of New York and the Beacon of Hope Program provided Darren with support tools for success and hope for better days, just as they have done for the needy in New York for a hundred years and more.

Beacon of Hope is going to continue helping Darren for as long as he needs it – like they have done for others. Someday, Darren will be able to walk away from this pandemic, fully recovered and pain free, with the rest of us.


Darren’s story is a great example of how Catholic Charities of New York steps into lives and creates hope and opportunity. But his story is also about just how powerful tenacity and a will to improve can be. Please be sure to not to miss part one of Darren's story, "Darren's Journey: From Prison and Addiction to a Beacon of Hope."