Mike Schultz, the gay San Francisco nurse who recently shared shocking before-and-after photos from his battle with COVID-19, appeared on CNN on Thursday morning to discuss the ordeal.
After contracting the coronavirus at the Winter Party Festival in Miami Beach in early March, Schultz spent four-and-a-half weeks on a ventilator and lost 50-60 pounds.
“I’m doing really well,” Schultz told CNN’s John Berman. “I’m able to move around and walk and go up and down stairs, and pretty much do anything on my own. It’s just I have to take a lot of rest breaks, and I just know that my lung capacity is not totally there yet.”
Schultz explained that he fell critically ill on Tuesday, March 17, after flying to Boston to visit his boyfriend, the week after they had attended the gay circuit party in Florida. Three people have died after contracting COVID-19 at the Winter Party Festival.
Asked how he felt after finally coming off the ventilator, Schultz told CNN: “I didn’t even recognize myself. I pretty much cried when I looked in the mirror. I had no idea how long I had been there, so it was kind of a shock taking all this in at once.”
“I’m slowly gaining weight,” Schultz added. “My face is starting to fill out more and I’m getting stronger. I know it’s going to be a long road.”
Schultz had no underlying medical conditions and worked out almost every day. He told BuzzFeed News he shared the before-and-after photos with his 30,000 Instagram followers as a warning.
“I knew what I thought going in [about the coronavirus],” he said. “I didn’t think it was as serious as it was until after things started happening. 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.”
After CNN first aired the shocking photos of Schultz on Wednsesday, medical analyst Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips weighed in.
“It’s not just the virus but actually staying in an ICU is really hard on the body and we’ve known for a long time that there is a condition called ICU Associated Weakness that happens when people are prolonged on a ventilator,” Compton-Phillips said. “Usually, by the way, they’re put into a medically-induced coma on the ventilator because it’s not a pleasant sensation to have to live through, so two big things happen. One is that you get something called a catabolic state where your body starts actually turning to muscle for fuel, so you start breaking down your own muscles, and the second is deconditioning. You are at complete rest, you’re not moving around, so your muscles get super, super weak, and at the end of that what happens is what my Kentucky father-in-law would describe as you end up weak as a kitten.”
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.