SAN FRANCISCO (Gray News/CNN) – The side-by-side photos of Mike Schultz are shocking.
One shows a chiseled 190-pound physique. The second, a body some 50 pounds lighter.
The difference is a six-week battle with COVID-19, including more than a month on a ventilator.
“I didn’t even recognize myself,” Schultz told CNN’s John Berman. “I pretty much cried when I looked in the mirror, like, ‘Oh, my God.’”
The 43-year-old’s saga began in early March before any of the social distancing restrictions were in place.
But things went downhill quickly.
It got harder and harder for him to breathe. He was soon running a fever, which spiked to 103.
“That's when we decided we should go to the hospital. It was just really too difficult to breathe,” Schultz said. “Being a nurse, I knew that wasn't good.”
The hospital quickly admitted him.
Schultz was diagnosed with pneumonia and had acute respiratory distress syndrome. His body was being starved of the oxygen it needed.
It wasn’t long before he was under sedation and on a ventilator.
It would be four and a half weeks before he was breathing on his own again.
“I had no idea how long I had been there,” Schultz said of his hospital stay. “It was a shock, taking all this in at once.”
Recovery hasn’t happened all at once, but there is progress.
“I’m slowly gaining weight,” he said. “Right now, I weigh about 143.”
Stamina is another issue.
Schultz can do things on his own, but it’s not like it was before he got sick.
“I have to take a lot of rest breaks and just know that my lung capacity is not totally there yet,” he said.
And there’s the damage to his lungs.
“I can’t breathe in all the way without feeling like I need to cough,” Schultz said. “Doctors say … the lung capacity is one of the slowest things to come back. So, it is going to be a while.”
In the end, the whole ordeal has been an eyeopener for him.
Schultz originally thought COVID-19 would bypass the young and healthy.
“Like a lot of people, I didn’t realize how serious it was," he said.
Something Schultz understands firsthand now.