How a 23-year-old skier is using his COVID-19 diagnosis to help others

Posted at 7:13 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 21:13:05-04

DENVER — During the same week Colorado’s Governor issued his stay at home orders, a group of five friends from Salt Lake City were returning from a weekend ski trip to Steamboat Springs. Within days, all five tested positive for COVID-19.

Now, one of those young men is using his illness and the impact it’s had on his life to make a difference for hundreds of others.

His name is Mathew Newey. He is a 23-year-old who has never seen a hurdle that’s too high. He’s an avid trick skier who some would call an adrenaline junkie. All that changed when he returned from that Steamboat ski trip.

“We also started having symptoms at the same time as well,” Matt said.

That was more than four weeks ago.

“It definitely awoke me to how serious this pandemic is,” he said.

Matt created a video diary of his COVID-19 experiences as a reminder of this historic pandemic. In fact, Matt may have been left with a lifetime of reminders.

Like so many who contract the virus, Matt lost all sense of taste and smell. He documented that experience in his video diary, most of which shows his ups and downs of his illness and quarantine from the basement of his family’s home north of Salt lake City.

The sense of smell, taste and his lung capacity have not yet returned fully, and his doctors can’t give him any guarantees they ever will.

“It’s unclear at this point whether it will come back fully, 100%,” Matt said. “I may still have some damage that may be with me for years and possibly a lifetime.”

Matt recalls every day how those symptoms would change. The first few days he was lethargic, suffering what might be described as a serious cold. Then body aches, dizziness, and eventually the coronavirus shifted to his lungs.

“I was just lying on the couch doing nothing and it felt like i had just run a fast mile and I couldn’t catch my breath,” he said. “And it felt like I was breathing through a straw.”

Matt’s doctor recently cleared him. He is no longer contagious and no longer subject to quarantine.

But he is not jumping for joy. He’s jumping in to the coronavirus fight with everything he’s got.

“I kind of felt like i had this unique super-power now that I’ve gotten over the virus. You know, I’ve got these anti-bodies in my system that I want to take advantage of. And so, thankfully I was able to get in contact with a phlebotomist and she was able to take some blood samples for a possible experiment of maybe finding a vaccine for the virus.”

Soon, this 23-year old survivor can start donating plasma. He is already scheduling appointments to do that.

“I kinda like being a guinea pig,” he says with a smile. “It’s been kinda fun to help give back to the amazing community that has supported me through this.”

He sees his ability to give back as a real silver lining to the infection.

“The silver lining is that since I’m most likely immune I’ve been able to help other people who are possibly too high risk to leave their house and go run errands.”

Matt has been very busy since he came out of quarantine volunteering to run those grocery and other errands for those who can’t or shouldn’t.

And there is no doubt, when the state’s stay-at-home orders are lifted, he’ll also get right back into his infectious passions.

When asked if he has plans to return to the state where he likely picked up the coronavirus, his response was definitive.

“Yes. I will always return to Colorado. Colorado is my favorite. I love the skiing, I love the exploring the mountains, those 14ers. “

But most important to Newey right now is making sure his generation does not mistake COVID-19 as a virus that just impacts older people. It took him down, he says. And he’s an active, healthy 23-year-old.