His weight loss reveals just how serious the coronavirus is and the toll it can take on an otherwise healthy person's body.

By Taylyn Washington-Harmon
May 20, 2020
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Mike Schultz, a San Francisco-based nurse, didn’t realize just how severe the coronavirus was until he woke up from a ventilator-induced coma. He was weak, frail, and 50 pounds lighter than when he went to the hospital six weeks earlier. “I don't think I've cried so much in my life," Schultz tells Health. "I thought I was going to be like this forever.”

To spread the word about how COVID-19 can ravage the body, he shared a dramatic photo of his 50-pound weight loss on Instagram—hoping people who don't think they're at risk for the virus will see it and realize the same thing could happen to them if they don't take precautions.

Schultz's ordeal began in March while he was visiting his boyfriend in Boston. He began exhibiting cold-like symptoms and had a fever of 103 degrees. “I was coughing all the time, and when I breathed I felt like I couldn't get in any air,” he recalls. “It was like I was breathing 50 times a minute.”

He went to the ER, and after a swab test and chest X-rays, Schultz tested positive for coronavirus and was also diagnosed with bilateral pneumonia, or pneumonia in both lungs. He was swiftly intubated and placed on a ventilator to aid his breathing. “That was the last time I saw my boyfriend,” says Schultz. “I texted him, ‘I'm scared.’ Soon after, I was sedated, and I don't remember much after that.”

Six weeks later, Schultz woke up believing only a week had gone by. “I still had a tracheostomy [tube], I couldn't talk, and my hands were so weak that my phone felt like it was 100 pounds,” he says. Even in his weakened state, he noticed how much weight he had lost after weeks of tube feeding. “Before, I was 190 pounds. After, I weighed myself the other day and I'm down to 140 pounds, and I probably weighed less than that when I first got into rehabilitation," he says. "I've never been this skinny before in my life.”

Prior to contracting the coronavirus, Schultz considered himself a fairly healthy man who exercised every day and had no previous ailments. Now in rehabilitation, he struggles to make it up a flight of stairs without getting winded. “I’m doing breathing exercises to get my lung capacity up, and plenty of exercises to stabilize my legs so I can finally walk without doing a penguin shuffle,” jokes Schultz.

While staying with his boyfriend in Boston, Schultz decided to share his own “before and after” to emphasize the severity of COVID-19 and warn others who don't think they can contract the illness. “I wanted to show people how serious it is, because younger people often think it doesn't affect them,” he explains. “I didn't think it would get as much of a reaction as it did.”

His message to those who saw his photo? “Yes, it sucks to have to wear a mask, but it's effective. Be safe and follow the rules. Don't think that you're immune to coronavirus. Stay positive, and hopefully we'll all get through this eventually.”

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