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'I Was So Ill I Didn't Know I Was Ill'

Ira Leesfield’s battle with COVID-19 gave him new perspective

Published in 2021 Florida Super Lawyers magazine

Ira Leesfield works out four times a week, minds his nutrition and takes care of himself. He had never been hospitalized.

Until last year.

In June, after a family Father’s Day event, he lost his sense of taste and smell, and stopped eating and sleeping. He didn’t really notice, but his wife and his longtime doctor did. On July 7, they admitted him to Baptist Health’s South Miami Hospital with COVID-19. “There’s a cognitive side of this [disease],” says Leesfield, a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney at Leesfield Scolaro in Miami. “You sort of get foggy, and your judgment is a little obscured. I was so ill, I didn’t know I was ill.” 

During his six-day stay, no one was allowed in his room except staff in full protective gear, for six minutes at a time. He recalls hearing the respirators of other patients; some died alone. “It’s a very isolating feeling,” he says, “and it was one of the most difficult parts of the recovery.” After a few days, his treatment was working but he remained weak. “It was scary, but I didn’t think I was in any danger.” He was. His antibody count later revealed it was a severe infection. And he developed pneumonia while hospitalized.

After a week or two at home, Leesfield resumed light exercise; after two months, he says, “I was almost back to normal, got my sense of taste and smell back and a little bit of my charming sense of humor.” 

He walked away with a deep sense of gratitude. The Leesfield Family Foundation supported the hospital before COVID, but has redoubled its giving. “All of my career, the cases we’ve handled have been helping other people who were pretty deprived by way of injury or malpractice or whatever it may be. But I don’t think I ever had the empathy for my clients that I now have, having gone through it myself,” he says. “I always thought that I was a very giving, caring, empathetic person. I kind of pride myself on being that guy. But I wasn’t. So it’s tenfold now. Now I get it.”

Leesfield says he’ll never forget the first time he went outside: “We have some bamboo that grows behind my house, and I listened to the sound of the bamboo blowing against each other. I’ve been in that house 20 years—I never heard that before. I’ve put in a new rose garden and vegetable garden. And I look for opportunities to help people. … This has been a life-changer. I’m 75 years old, and I lived my life one way for 74 years—that was go, go, go, go, go. And this morning I was out picking tomatoes.”

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