Salt Lake County deputy shares serious message about COVID-19 after surviving near-death experience

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A deputy with the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office has a serious message to the public about COVID-19 after surviving a near-death experience with the virus. Although he has been released from the hospital, his road to recovery will be long and difficult.

As a Marine Corp veteran, it’s clear Deputy David Bickley has a passion for serving his community. He’s been working at the Salt Lake County Jail for about four years and expressed that he absolutely loves his job.

“I’ve always loved people. I love taking care of others. It’s just my nature. Being in the Marines, I got to serve my country and I had a blast doing that,” said Deputy Bickley. “It just seemed like the only fit was law enforcement. I’m really drawn to rehabilitating people and helping them become a better person so they can rejoin society.”

As the COVID-19 outbreak began making its way towards Utah, Deputy Bickley’s partner, Nani Padilla said there were extra concerns about the virus in their family because he and their son are particularly vulnerable to respiratory illnesses.

Related: Salt Lake County responds to ACLU-led lawsuit to release inmates

“They’re prone to chronic pneumonia and bronchitis,” she said.

In April, Deputy Bickley began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 around the same time officials at the Salt Lake County Jail was seeing an outbreak.

“At first, we thought I was just having a stomach bug. I passed the initial temperature check when I went into work, but then about an hour later, I felt really, really cold. They checked my temperature again and again and it was continuously at 101 degrees,” he said. “They sent me home and checked my oxygen levels. It was only at 85 percent, which is way low.”

In a press release issued back on April 22, they said 14 inmates and multiple staff members had tested positive for the virus since March 31. Since then, jail officials said that number has increased by two inmates.

Deputy Bickley tested positive for COVID-19 and his severe symptoms sent him to the ICU, where he was put in a medically-induced coma for 15 days. During that time, Padilla said doctors told her his chances of survival was 30 percent.

“It was horrible. It just felt like the world was kind of falling on top of me, you know? I get this news from the hospital telling me that it’s most likely that he’s not coming home,” she said.

Three additional members in his family also contracted the virus shortly after, with Padilla experiencing symptoms and possibly receiving a false negative on her test.

Against all odds, Bickley recovered from the virus and was released from the hospital after 22 days, but the road to recovery has not been easy. His family said after he woke up from the coma, he lost some of his mobility functions. 

“I couldn’t walk. I could barely breathe. I couldn’t do anything because of how weak I was. It’s been a hard journey this past week and a half I’ve been at home. I can only stand for a few minutes before I have to sit back down again,” he said. “I’ve had to relearn how to walk and do all these basic things we take for granted every day.”

Deputy Bickley now attends physical therapy, hoping to quickly return to work one day. In the meantime, his family said his colleagues and employers at the jail have been supportive and helpful in getting them through this tough time.

“While I was in a coma at the hospital, they brought food over and grocery orders to my family who had to self-isolate at home,” he said. “I love what I do very much and I miss being at work with everyone. It’s hard not being able to put my uniform on.”

“I didn’t even know most of the people David worked with until know. They always made sure we were taken care of,” said Padilla.

His story of recovery is one that comes with purpose. As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, Deputy Bickley said he hopes the public will take the virus seriously.

“Please don’t be neglectful of your health, your family’s health, and the community’s health. I almost died from this. My entire family could have been wiped out. If you catch it, it doesn’t just affect you. This can kill not just you, but your entire family,” said Deputy Bickley.

“Our family went through all of the possible symptoms. It’s not fake. We know it’s very much real in our home,” said Padilla.

Although the Bickley family is receiving some financial assistance, they are still unable to work. Family friends have set up a GoFundMe to help them get through during this difficult time. If you would like to help, click here.

“It’s awe-inspiring. It makes me appreciate each day after coming that close to dying. Being able to wake up next to her (Nani) everyday is what keeps me going. There’s time when therapy puts me near tears cause it hurts so bad. But knowing I have support means the world,” said Deputy Bickley.

The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office released this statement in response to ABC4 News’ story about Deputy Bickley.

“Due to HIPPA and Salt Lake Sheriff’s Office Human Resource policies, we are unable to discuss personal or medical information concerning our team members.  Our thoughts are with our Sheriff’s Office employees and their families.  We wish a speedy recovery for anyone affected by COVID-19.”

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