I-TEAM: ‘It’s real’: Lung damage just a part of COVID-19 aftermath, CSRA patient says

Published: Jul. 17, 2020 at 5:05 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Hospital beds are filling up and visitation restrictions are back in place across the CSRA as thousands of state residents battle COVID-19.

Let’s introduce you to one of them.

Steve Schultz felt a little tired a few weeks ago. Within days the 57-year-old husband and father was fighting for his life at University Hospital.

“I was afraid, and he was afraid,” Kim Schultz, Steve’s wife, said.

Seven days of worry. Seven days of unknowns. Seven days of isolation.

“I couldn’t sit there and hold his hand,” Kim said, holding Steve’s hand now.

“I am so happy.”

Steve holds his wife’s hand tightly, just as Kim held on to hope he would come home.

“It was hard,” Kim said. “It was hard for him. It was hard for me. He told me to call the preacher and it scared me.

Kim began to suspect her husband had COVID-19 about three weeks ago.

“The fever started Sunday getting worse and worse, running a 102 at one time,” Steve said.

“Close to 103,” Kim said.

“Yeah,” Steve responded.

Then it got worse.

“His respiratory pattern changed suddenly, and I could pick up on it because I am in the healthcare field,” Kim said.

It took four days for the test results to confirm her fears.

“It’s hard because I’ve seen it,” Kim said. “I know what happens, and I know how quickly this virus can take over the lungs.”

COVID-19 had already ravaged his lungs by the time he got to the hospital.

“They told us he had pneumonia in both lungs,” Kim said.

From right to left, these are Steve Schultz' lungs two years ago, a picture of his lungs when...
From right to left, these are Steve Schultz' lungs two years ago, a picture of his lungs when he was admitted to the hospital, and a picture of his lungs currently.(Kim and Steve Schultz)

“My x-rays were horrible,” Steve said.

The whole thing has taken a toll on Kim, too.

“I have had my moments,” Kim said.

Because she knows what COVID can do to someone like him.

“He has some health problems so he is kind of that perfect storm,” Kim said.

Those problems include diabetes, heart disease, and being 57 years old -- textbook reasons for concern.

“I had to just let him go,” Kim said. “You walk in, and I thought I would at least be able to walk back there and wait with him in the ER. That was tough,just for them to kind of wheel him away.”

“They put me on oxygen, and I wore that 24 hours a day,” Steve said.

He got worse. He needed plasma and remdesivir.

“Told me if he needed to come donate plasma he would,” Steve said.

It took nearly 24 hours, but Steve was soon on the mend thanks to help of doctors and nurses at UH.

But the damage was done. Steve’s lungs still are in rough shape and he occasionally needs oxygen.

“It’s real,” Steve said. “It’s for real.”

On July 3, on the eve of our nation’s independence, Steve rolled out of UH to celebrate his freedom from COVID.

Steve believes he may have caught the virus from work but he isn’t sure. What he does know is that as soon as he is well enough, he will donate plasma too, giving someone else the same fighting a stranger gave him.

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