43-year-old registered nurse Mike Schultz was one of thousands of gay men who attended the Winter Party in Miami in the first week in March. It was the last circuit party on the global circuit of events that attract fit, shirtless men year round that was not cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic — and it ended on March 10, just a week before lockdowns began in California.
Schultz tells BuzzFeed that partygoers were aware of the virus threat, but at that point in March it didn't feel too serious. "There were no real restrictions in place... No lockdowns. We just thought, Well, we gotta wash our hands more and be wary of touching our face."
With no underlying conditions, Schultz thought that his age and fitness level would save him if he became infected. But now, after being intubated for four weeks and just out of the hospital last week after 57 days, he's been wanting to get the word out that no one should feel safe from this virus.
"I wanted to show everyone how badly being sedated for 6 weeks on a ventilator or intubated can be," he wrote on Instagram. "Amongst other things, covid19 reduced my lung capacity with pneumonia." He tells BuzzFeed it exhausted him just to stand up to take the picture below.
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I wanted to show everyone how badly being sedated for 6 weeks on a ventilator or intubated can be. Amongst other things, covid19 reduced my lung capacity with pneumonia. Over 8 weeks I’ve been away from family and friends Getting stronger everyday and working to increase my lung capacity. I’ll get back to where I was in healthier ways this time....maybe even do cardio 😱. #covid19 #caronavirus #recovery #godblessmynurses
Schultz was one of 38 gay men to likely have become infected at the Winter Party — though it's possible he became infected in subsequent days, reportedly flying from Miami to San Francisco and then to Boston, to visit his boyfriend, where he began experiencing symptoms and was then hospitalized on March 16. Three party attendees have since died.
Media attention to the White Party story, and this subsequent Advocate story about Schultz being hospitalized, garnered a lot of unwanted negative attention, Schultz says — with some commenters saying he and other attendees deserved to get sick. (Echoes of the early days of AIDS, no?)
"The negative stuff bothers me," he admits to BuzzFeed, "but it doesn't bother me that much, because I’ve gotten so much positive feedback."
And last week, in Boston, he was able to leave the hospital and go have a first post-hospital meal: A McDonald's burger, fries, and a strawberry shake.
"There aren’t enough words to describe how thankful I am for his help, for the support from my family, and for the thoughts and prayers of so many of you," he writes. "I still have months of recovery ahead of me. So happy I get to spend it with Josh."
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After 57 days in the hospital not able to see any visitors, battling covid induced pneumonia, I’m finally going home! Had to make a stop at McDonald’s with my guardian angel, my best friend, and my boyfriend, @dj_jwarren . There aren’t enough words to describe how thankful I am for his help, for the support from my family, and for the thoughts and prayers of so many of you. I appreciate all of your kind words. I still have months of recovery ahead of me. So happy I get to spend it with Josh. 🐺❤️🐻 #survivor #covid19 #coronavirus