TRENDS Diary: A Bartender’s Cautionary Tale of Surviving the Virus and More

TRENDS Diary, a project of the Community Foundation of Boulder County, is a place for Boulder County residents of all ages to share personal experiences that relate to a pressing community need. The focus, for now, is on our shared need to connect and solve problems, despite the increased isolation we’re all experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listen To The Audio Diary:

(Download Audio)

Dear TRENDS Diary,

I run the Outback Saloon in Boulder. I’d like to share my story so that more people take this virus seriously.

Way back in March, I got the chills, then a fever, due to COVID-19. Urgent Care wouldn’t test me at first because I didn’t have chest pains or shortness of breath. Those took time to develop. It took 20 days to get a diagnosis, including nine of those days in the hospital with pneumonia. 

A month into my discomfort, I felt a pop in my chest. My left side went numb, then my right side. My breathing shallowed. My back spasmed. 

I returned to the hospital. I had hydropneumothorax – fluid between my rib cage and my lung. I also had an abscess the size of a tennis ball on my lung.

Finally, two months in, I had surgery. That’s when it hit me: This is real. This is serious.

I walked out of the hospital for the third time, 10 weeks and a day after catching the virus. My pulmonologist believes I’m the first person in the world with this combination of illnesses.

The hardest thing about being back at the bar is that people feel so comfortable there. People don’t want to follow the rules. I won’t hesitate to tell people to put their masks on when in the bar. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s your mother, your brother or your best friend. Unless you know they’ve been quarantined – it’s that whole chain. You can get it at the store or at the gas station. It’s everywhere. 

I’m fortunate enough to still be here. There’s plenty of people who would trade my huge scar to have their life back. It’s a humbling experience that makes you wonder why. Why did I make it? Why did I get it in the first place? What’s my purpose for it? 

Sometimes it takes a little trauma to bring awareness to other people. I hope that sharing a simple story like this starts to change people’s attitudes. Maybe we won’t just go about our life because things are re-opening. Maybe we won’t just go back to normal and forget about it.

– Matt Wolvington, as told to Chris Barge