By Michael Abeyta

DENVER (CBS4) – Matthew Zien is a 39-year-old Air Force veteran. He served nine tours in the Middle East.

He was stationed overseas when a foreign dentist, sent by the Air Force, used dirty instruments and gave him a bacterial infection. The infection gave him heart and respiratory problems. When he had surgery to repair the damage, his heart stopped three times on the operating table. The whole ordeal left him with lasting medical issues.

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(credit: Matthew Zien)

So when the coronavirus came to the states, he followed his doctor’s advice and protected himself.

“I mean we cleaned our house top to bottom. Sanitized it. We had hand sanitizer everywhere. Washed our hands all the time. We weren’t around anyone who was known to have the COVID-19 virus. I went to Walmart and that was it.”

He was exposed to the virus and got sick. He says it started with a headache then a low fever, loss of taste and diminished breathing capacity. He went to the doctor to get tested and was sent home. Then all of a sudden he couldn’t breathe.

“It just bam! It happened out of nowhere” Matthew said.

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He called 911 and was taken to Platte Valley Medical Center. There he was on a ventilator and in a coma for almost three days. After being administered chloroquine he started getting better. Now he has a message for those who don’t think social distancing is worth it.

(credit: CBS)

“The only way that we are going to get past this whole epidemic is if we take this social distancing seriously,” he said. “The blind ignorance of people. Seeing them just ignore it because they don’t have the symptoms, and I get that only a small percentage of folks get it, but what if you do get it?! I mean you’re ignoring all of these things trying to help the whole country get past this and how dare you? It damn near killed me,” he said.

Matthew says he is lucky to be alive and gives all the credit to the doctors, nurses techs and hospital workers who saved his life.

He says this has also impacted him mentally and financially. He encourages people struggling with after effects of COVID-19 to find someone to talk to. He has also set up a fundraiser to help him pay his medical bills.

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Michael Abeyta