Darren Benike Part 1: ‘Stubborn to the Point I Wasn’t Going to be Around Anymore’
My name is Darren Benike, I'm from Castlewood, South Dakota. I work at Estelline Community Oil Coop in Estelline, South Dakota. I'm the General Manager there.
What led to your COVID-19 hospitalization?
So a little bit of a weird story. It's funny in the end, but it wasn't so funny at the time, but I took a fishing trip. So we went out to the Missouri River to Akaska, and we fished for a couple of days and then I thought, "You know, I've got a little bit of a cold." And I got some Tylenol Cold and Flu and took that, and I thought, "Yeah, nothing big." The whole time in my mind, you know, COVID's been around, so I was thinking, "You know, COVID. I've got to be careful." So I could still smell and I could still taste, and I kept eating things and smelling things to make sure, I know this is going to sound a little odd, but that is what I did. And I'm like, "Yeah, can't have COVID. It must just be a cold."
Monday afternoon I kind of start feeling a little bad again, so I took some more Tylenol Cold and Flu. On Tuesday, I thought, "You know what? This just didn't seem right." So I didn't go fishing and the other guys did. So I stayed back. I slept quite a bit, and then I woke up and it felt like I maybe had a fever and I kind of broke it. I said, "Okay, well, we're good now."
And Wednesday, it didn't seem quite right when I woke up, so we waited a little bit and then I thought, "Yeah, I feel all right," so we went fishing again. We were on the Missouri River fishing in the cold. Wednesday night I started coughing quite a bit, and Thursday I didn't feel good again, so I stayed back, and then Friday I just took it easy. And on Friday night, I didn't feel very good, and I had noticeable shortness of breath. And on Saturday morning, I was taking a shower and it was kind of that damp, warm air, and I started getting a little bit light-headed and I thought, "Well, this isn't quite right."
So I thought, "Well, all right." So I went back in my room and I sat down, I get ready, get dressed and stuff. And by the time I got dressed I had to stop, "Boy, I am really short of air now." And so I went out and I sat in the chair for a while and we watched a little bit of a movie and, when I got up, I stood up and I was instantly lightheaded and said that, "Something is not right here." And, again, I could still taste and smell, so I thought it's probably not COVID.
So we decided we were going to leave, so we had to pack up, and I packed my stuff up. And I had two bags, and one was light, and one was heavy. I took the light one, walked out to the pickup and I just about fell down. I was so weak. By the time we got back home to my pickup, the thing I distinctly remember is I went to load a little bit out of that pickup into mine because it was at a friends' house, and I was going to drive home. And when I went to load just a little bit in, once again, I was like, "Wow, I am really lightheaded."
So I got in, and I started my pickup, we had a little bit of snow. I got out, I scraped that off the windshield wiper and I couldn't hardly get back in the pickup after that. So I waited, I kind of breathed, I got my breath a little bit, and I got so I wasn't so dizzy or lightheaded, and I got in the pickup. And the place I parked at, my friend, his wife is a nurse, and she came out, and she goes, "You need to get somewhere quick." And I said, "Well, I know I was going to go check myself into Watertown." And she goes, "Would you mind if I check you real quick here?" And I said, "Nah, that would be fine." So I said, "I gotta let the pickup warm up anyways."
So she goes in and grabs whatever you call it, a stethoscope, and comes out, and she grabbed my phone and I set it on a timer and whatever she did. She looks and she said, "You are not driving." She goes, "You are in very bad shape. Your oxygen is really low." And, you know, to me, at the time, I'd never done this before so I had no idea. I'm like, "Oh, okay. It's low. Yeah, I know I can't breathe real good." I wasn't piecing together the oxygen part. I can now because I have been through it, but then I didn't.
When you arrived at the hospital, how was your condition?
They drove me down, took me to the ER here, and then they put the gown on, and all that stuff, and all of a sudden, they started plugging things in. That's kind of where I started to kind of come to a little bit, like, "Oh, this might be a little bit serious." It wasn't too long after that, that Dr. Vossler came back in and explained, "Yeah, you have COVID. You are positive."
You know, my whole life, for quite a while anyways, the last 20, 20-something years, I have been friends with Dr. Vossler, and he has been very direct. You know, he is a doctor, so we kind of have a little banter going back and forth like, "I don't need doctors. You guys always just tell us the bad stuff, you know?" And even there still a little bit in my mind going, "You know, is he really just making it worse than it is, or is he telling me the truth this time?"
And he actually was starting to tear up a little bit and stuff, and he told it like it was, and it wasn't good. "You were in bad shape. You need to pay attention to what's going on here because this isn't a good situation." So I was very stubborn. Yeah. Yeah, my wife reminds me of that quite a bit. She said, "Stubborn to the point where you were going to not be around anymore." So, yeah, they said it wouldn't have been too long. An hour or two more and things would have been really ugly for me.
How did the staff help you?
They wanted to be around to make sure if I was getting in and out of bed. You know, still, at that point, I am like, "I am a grown man. I can take care of myself," and some of that started to get me a little bit. And like I said, I got a little irritated, and I didn't even realize throughout this whole thing I didn't even have an appetite anymore. I wasn't eating. You know, very little if anything.
The nurses kept coming in and checking on me. "Well, you need to do this, and you need to do that," and some of the stuff in that first week, and I'm like, "Nah, I don't need to roll over again. Really? I got to do that, and I got to turn?" Things got a little foggy at times. And, you know, from when I remember to when I remember, you know, I didn't think I was that bad. But there were some times that I think I was a little bit ornery with them, you know?
Again, they were always positive, always "inspirational" is the word I used when I wrote it down. I'm like, "You know what? This is cool about those folks." Because they take a beating mentally, physically, and I didn't appreciate them at that time, that's for sure. And they didn't care. They just kept going.
Will you get the COVID vaccine?
I would absolutely get the vaccine. There's no question about it. I'm working with the doctors. I still had the antibodies last time I was tested yesterday, but there is also different strains of it. Maybe I am not immune to all of them, so when I can get it, I will get it. And I don't need to jump the line or anything, I will wait my turn because there is plenty of other people. It doesn't matter if you have had it or not had it. If you can get it again, and you can go through the stuff I did, then get the shot. Get the vaccine, go through it.
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