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As he sat in his bed in a Boston hospital's coronavirus ward, Mike Schultz chatted with one of his favorite nurses about his treatment of being sedated and intubated.
"I thought only a week had gone by," he told BuzzFeed News.
That's when she let him know he hadn't been in the ward for one week — he'd been there for six.
"I was so weak. This was one of the most frustrating parts," he recalled. "I couldn’t hold my cellphone; it was so heavy. I couldn’t type, because my hands shook so much."
The 43-year-old nurse from San Francisco had no underlying health conditions. He normally worked out six or seven times a week. He weighed about 190 pounds. When he spoke with BuzzFeed News on Tuesday, weeks after he'd been able to start eating foods again, he weighed just 140 pounds. His lung capacity is only now starting to slowly come back.
Last week, Schultz shared a photo of the toll COVID-19 had taken on his body to his 30,000 Instagram followers. The picture on the left was taken about a month before he first got sick. He took the photo on the right in a recovery ward. It exhausted him to stand up from the bed for a few minutes to take the picture, he said.
"I knew what I thought going in [about the coronavirus]. I didn’t think it was as serious as it was until after things started happening," he said. "I thought I was young enough for it not to affect me, and I know a lot of people think that.
"I wanted to show it can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, have preexisting conditions or not. It can affect you."
Schultz went to the hospital on March 16. Two days earlier, he'd arrived in Boston from his home in San Francisco to see his boyfriend, 29-year-old DJ Josh Hebblethwaite. He was a little under the weather but did not have a fever.
The week before, the pair had gone to Miami Beach for Winter Party Festival, a circuit party that Hebblethwaite was working at and which drew thousands of people to the area for a week of events. Schultz posted pictures of himself smiling with friends and declared on Instagram he'd had a great time.
But as they danced, the people in attendance were unaware that the coronavirus was also present.
"We knew it was out there," said Schultz. "There were no real restrictions in place, though. No lockdowns. We just thought, Well, we gotta wash our hands more and be wary of touching our face."
At least 38 people who attended Winter Party subsequently became sick. Three men died.
Within two days of Schultz arriving in Boston, he and Hebblethwaite began feeling seriously ill. Schultz's fever spiked to 103, and he had difficulty breathing. His lungs were filling with liquid. They raced to a hospital.
"They took him right in and didn't let me stay to say goodbye," Hebblethwaite said.
On his first day there, Schultz was given oxygen through his nose, then via a full face mask, and then doctors started sedating him.
"One of the doctors said early on I was probably going to be intubated, and it freaked me out," he said.
Within four days, he was taken to a bigger hospital, and Hebblethwaite arranged to become Schultz's medical proxy just in case.
"There was no one else around, and I would be the one to make decisions for him," Hebblethwaite said. "It was definitely scary."
Schultz ended up being intubated for four and a half weeks, and Hebblethwaite could not visit him due to hospital protocols designed to prevent infection. Instead, he called every four hours or so for updates and to ask the nurses to let Schultz know he was loved.
"About four weeks in, the nurses were nice enough to FaceTime with him," he said. "It was pretty much like he was in a coma. It was definitely scary. But I was so happy to see him at that point."
As he continues his recovery, Schultz said both he and Hebblethwaite have received some backlash online for their attendance at the Winter Party. Some even said Schultz deserved to get sick, but he is choosing to focus on the outpouring of support he's received since posting his photo.
"The negative stuff bothers me," he said, "but it doesn't bother me that much, because I’ve gotten so much positive feedback."
He has also been thinking about the food he ordered at McDonald's when he was finally released from the hospital: two double cheeseburgers, small fries, and a strawberry shake.
"It did taste different. I think lost some of my taste," he said, "but it was good."