Metro Detroit couple reunited after 50 days apart due to COVID-19

James and Darlene Johnson are grateful to be home together, both recovering from coronavirus.

WARREN, Mich. – James and Darlene Johnson are grateful to be home together, both recovering from coronavirus.

The Highland Park couple has been married for 48 years and believe they got COVID-19 after attending a memorial service and funeral in March.

Update May 28, 2020 -- Michigan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases up to 56,014; Death toll now at 5,372

They went to Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital Warren Campus together. Darlene was not as sick and sent home to self-quarantine, but James was admitted to the hospital. He would spend 28 days on a ventilator.

“They instantly took him back. And then an hour or so later, they called me and told me they were putting him on a ventilator,” Darlene Johnson said. “It scared the living crap out of me.”

James remembers very little from his time in the hospital. He said when he came out of his coma he couldn’t walk or talk. His voice is still recovering.

“COVID-19 is severely affecting his whole body system, so all of his organs and his whole body was fighting this off,” said Dr. Dan Ryan, the Chief of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Ascension Macomb-Oakland. “When you're on ventilatory support you really are pretty still you're not doing much movement at all except for when the therapist or nurse or somebody else is moving your limbs and rolling you or doing what have you to have some movement. So from that you're pretty weak and get debilitated from that standpoint.”

Until this hospital stay, James and Darlene have never been apart during their 48 years of marriage. James is a chaplain for the Highland Park Police department and a pastor. Both James and Darlene say faith and prayer got them through this time.

The medical staff at Ascension Macomb-Oakland hospital Warren campus say James' recovery is remarkable.

“He's made tremendous progress on recovery. I mean from the ICU, being on a ventilator for two to three weeks and then being able to walk out of the hospital was exciting to see just a tremendous improvement,” Dr. Ryan said.

Ryan said when Johnson was discharged he walked over 150 on his own with a walker.

Hospital staff lined up to cheer and applaud as Johnson left the hospital.

“They wanted me to come down in a wheelchair. I said ‘No, I'm walking.’ And I thank God I was able to walk out in the walker and to see such love,” James Johnson said.

It was quite a scene for Johnson to take in.

“My, my, when I walked out there and I saw half of the Highland Park Police department and most of my church members, and friends and family, it just set me off like a rocket,” Johnson said.

But the best moment was when James came face-to-face with his wife Darlene.

“When I saw her, that's when I lost it,” said James Johnson.

“I just ran and jumped in his arms, because we've never been apart. After all these years, not for 50 days, ever,” Darlene Johnson said.

Outside the hospital, the Highland Park Police department vehicles were standing by to escort him home.

Johnson feels he survived for a reason.

“I want to do something to let people know this virus is no hoax. I know that it's real. and I want to extend my hand to anybody that I can, and give them the support,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s advice to everyone is not to go to fast with recovery, listen to the doctors, wear a mask, where gloves. He still feels weak and has a long way to go but is glad to get back to himself.

The Johnsons are thankful for the care he received at Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital Warren Campus.

Anyone who believes they might have coronavirus should follow the CDC guidelines. has a list of resources available to those concerned about COVID-19.

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About the Authors:

You can watch Kimberly Gill weekdays anchoring Local 4 News at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. and streaming live at 10 p.m. on Local 4+. She's an award-winning journalist who finally called Detroit home in 2014. Kim has won Regional Emmy Awards, and was part of the team that won the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast in 2022.