EVERGREEN, Colo. (CBS4) - An anesthesiologist from Evergreen who spent five weeks on a ventilator fighting COVID-19 is talking about life after the virus nearly killed him. Dr. Michael Leonard was the first coronavirus patient in Colorado to receive convalescent plasma. He credits the caregivers at UCHealth for saving him.
These days, Leonard works hard to get his strength back. He attends a class for COVID-19 survivors, supervised exercise for those who spent weeks in intensive care. Leonard was one of the sickest.
"I came pretty close to dying," he told Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.
The 68-year-old was fit, an avid outdoorsman. But on March 24, he entered UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital gasping for air.
"I said I really can't breathe, I'm an anesthesiologist and I need to be intubated," Leonard explained.
Leonard spent 5 weeks on life support. His family caught glimpses of him through a Ring camera they asked staff to put in his room. After his daughter, Molly, pleaded for a donor, he received experimental treatment, antibody-rich convalescent plasma.
"That seems to have been a turning point," he said.
On day 35, he went off the ventilator. On day 40, with help, Leonard waved to his family from a hospital window.
Leonard went home weak and 31 pounds lighter.
"When I looked in the mirror, I was like 'Who was that?' (I) just looked like a stick figure," he said.
Three months later, he looks and feels good.
"I am, like, ecstatic to be here and be alive," he said getting emotional.
Leonard has scarring in his lungs, but works on building stamina. His fitness helped him survive, but he gives the bulk of the credit to the caregivers at UCHealth.
"There's no doubt they saved my life," he said.
Leonard is focused on family ... excited about his first grandchild.
He cautions those who dismiss COVID-19.
"I would say to anybody, do not take this lightly, it can change or end your life."
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