PHILADELPHIA -- Bill Bolds knows what it's like to fight for his life.
He's spent 25 years working narcotics on the Philadelphia police force -- the kind of work that tests even a man of Bolds' imposing size: 6-foot-8, 300 pounds.
But in late March, Bolds was fighting something even his perilous job could not prepare him for: COVID-19. He lay in a bed too small for his frame in the intensive care unit of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The virus ravaging his lungs made every breath feel like a battle.
Bolds, 53, was one of the first Philly cops to fall ill -- and among the very first COVID-19 patients admitted to HUP. He was also one of the first to go on a ventilator, the most serious intervention for COVID-19 patients.
By then, he and his wife, Linda, had read enough to know how dire the situation was. He was looking at a 20% chance of survival.
"I am not the type of guy that scares easily," said Bolds, his once-booming baritone reduced to a whisper in recovery. "But when they said ventilator, I was very, very scared. I just did not want to go on a vent. I knew a vent was bad news."
Bolds would lie in an induced coma for 20 days during the first anxious weeks of the pandemic, a machine doing the work his lungs no longer could.
He awoke to learn that the world had stopped when he did, with much of the city shut down in a desperate bid to slow the spread of the virus.
Yet thousands of Philadelphia police officers still report to work each day, patrolling the city during a global pandemic. City officials have declined to say how many have fallen ill.
Bolds' story is both a reflection of the realities of the pandemic and a hopeful glimpse from the front lines, where cops strive to keep at their jobs while doctors and nurses work to keep them healthy.