Coronavirus Florida: Back from the dead? Man spent nearly 4 weeks in a coma
Glenn Kaufman says it was a promise he made to his family - as a ventilator pumped air through his lungs - that carried him through a weeks-long coma and a 220-volt shock to his chest.
“I told my brother I’d fight. I fought,” said Kaufman, 60. “I told my sister I’d fight. I fought.”
He fought for his mom, who died in 2015 and for his dad, who died in 1996. He fought for his two nieces and nephew. For his 8-year-old German Shepherd.
The Boynton Beach resident, who was diagnosed two years ago with kidney failure because of diabetes, was infected with coronavirus and pneumonia and spent close to six weeks at Bethesda East Hospital, including three to four of those weeks in a coma.
Doctors would revive him twice.
Kaufman’s close friend, Jen Roselli, said she got a call from Kaufman on March 16. Days earlier, Kaufman, a retired roadie, was at New York’s Beacon Theatre for the Love Rocks NYC benefit, where a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who tested positive believes he contracted the virus.
Kaufman said he does not blame the theater for his falling sick but speculates that’s where he picked up the virus.
Regardless, he felt ill and had plans to head to a hospital, he told Roselli in March.
But before long, Roselli was rushing Kaufman to the emergency room.
Staffers sat him in a wheelchair and whisked him away.
“He just looked gray, he was not able to hold himself up,” Roselli said. “He looked like he was gonna die.”
Kaufman said he closed his eyes as if for a nap only to wake up weeks later in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, where nurses revered him as “our miracle.”
At first, he did not know why he was in a hospital bed or how long he had been there. He did not know what it’d felt like to be intubated so long or that he would develop an affinity for the hospital’s green Jell-O.
What he did know was that before he came to, he says he saw a white light and his late family members - his mom, dad and brother, Allan, who died in October.
Kaufman had been ready to walk toward them.
“I had given up. I was leaving,” Kaufman said. “That would’ve meant I was gone.”
But Kaufman said his brother made him vow to keep pushing for his life. Kaufman also knew he could not leave his sister, Stacey, who’d already lost one brother, or his beloved pup, Lora-Li, the center of his world.
In his “dream state,” he claims he saw Lora-Li tilt her head.
Lingering between that state and consciousness, he heard doctors tell his sister over the phone that he was gone, he said.
“I don’t want to imagine not being here and that … heartache,” Kaufman said. “So I fought.”
Life looks differently now for Kaufman, who returned on April 22 to his Boynton Beach home with printed certification that he no longer has the coronavirus.
His breath is short, his balance is off and he gets deliveries of food and toilet paper rolls via a bucket and rope.
He takes his temperature twice a day and leaves home - by sliding down his stairs - for dialysis three times a week.
He has a kidney donor but no longer expects doctors will put him on an operating table in the near future.
Perhaps most critical to his day-to-day is that Kaufman is not strong enough to care for Lora-Li, who is staying with Roselli at her Delray Beach business, Beach Dog Daycare.
Roselli said while Kaufman was in the hospital, she’d bring Lora-Li outside the hospital to pray and send him good energy.
And when she reunited Lora-Li with Kaufman after his discharge, Kaufman said, it was “like everything I’d just gone through was worth it.”
Kaufman said when he is able he plans to get more German Shepherds and become a pet foster and rescue. He said he believes his life was spared so he can advocate for and save animals.
“I’m alive because of mine,” he said, pointing to Lora-Li as a focal part of the promise he made to keep pushing himself toward survival.
In getting “extra time” to live, he said, his purpose also involves loving his family. He’s kept attention on the hundreds of people who rooted for him and also is focusing on his health and his patience.
“I know reality. I know I'm not the strongest,” he said. “I’ll just keep fighting.”
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.