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Nurse reveals dramatic muscle loss after 6-week fight with COVID-19

Mike Schultz, 43, is shown before (left) and after his COVID-19 diagnosis.
Mike Schultz, 43, is shown before (left) and after his COVID-19 diagnosis. Mike Schultz/Instagram

A California nurse and bodybuilding enthusiast has revealed the shocking toll that the coronavirus took on his body after he spent six weeks in the hospital with complications from COVID-19.

Mike Schultz, 43, says he weighed about 190 pounds and had no underlying health conditions before he contracted the coronavirus in early March. He ended up spending 57 days in hospital with the virus and came out weighing only 140 pounds, he wrote in an Instagram post. The post also included before and after photos documenting the dramatic change that his body went through during the ordeal.

“Took this selfie last week to show how much hospital deconditioning affected my body after being sedated for six weeks, intubated and on a ventilator,” Schultz wrote. “I hope it opens some eyes to those who think they’re not at risk. I had no prior medical issues.”

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Schultz calls himself the “bearded nurse” on Instagram, but COVID-19 also cost him that, too, as hospital staff had to shave his face for the ventilator.

He says he first came down with the virus in early March after attending the Winter Party Festival in Miami, Fla., with his partner, Josh Hebblethwaite. Several cases have since been linked to that festival.

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Schultz says he flew home to San Francisco after the event, then caught another flight to Boston, Mass., to see Hebblethwaite. He was feeling a little under the weather but he had no idea that he’d been infected at the time, he told Buzzfeed News.

“I didn’t think it was as serious as it was until after things started happening,” Schultz told Buzzfeed. “I thought I was young enough for it not to affect me, and I know a lot of people think that.”

He was admitted to hospital two days after he arrived in Boston, and he soon developed pneumonia. Hospital staff put him on a ventilator and moved him to the coronavirus ward, where he fought through the virus until he was strong enough to go into a recovery room on May 2.

“I was so weak,” he said. “I couldn’t hold my cellphone. It was so heavy. I couldn’t type because my hands shook so much.”

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He says he took his post-coronavirus photo once he felt strong enough to stand.

Schultz’s friends supported him from afar and launched a GoFundMe page to help cover the costs of his lengthy hospital stay. They asked for US$15,000 and ended up collecting more than $19,000 to help him out.

Schultz and Hebblethwaite celebrated his recovery with some McDonald’s ice cream last week.

“Getting stronger every day and working to increase my lung capacity,” Schultz wrote on Instagram.

“I’ll get back to where I was in healthier ways this time,” he added. “Maybe (I’ll) even do cardio.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.