DENVER (CBS4) – He was one of the first people in Colorado to contract the novel coronavirus. He was among those who were hospitalized in critical condition. CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh has followed Dr. Michael Leonard’s story from the beginning.

One year later, the anesthesiologist is one of the early COVID-19 patients who survived.

“I just have this pervasive sense of gratitude in my life now. Every day is a gift,” Leonard said via Zoom.

(credit: Leonard family)

These days, Leonard is spending some time in the sun. Winter at his home in Evergreen got to him this year.

“When it got cold in Colorado, I developed some cold-induced asthma,” said Leonard.

That’s the 68 year old’s only complaint, and that’s amazing because a year ago the coronavirus nearly killed him.

“I am remarkably free of complications which is a miracle frankly, as severe, severely ill as I was.”

On March 24, 2020, he went to UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital unable to breathe. He was the sickest of the sick with COVID-19 and spent five weeks on life support.

After his daughter, Molly, pleaded for a donor, he was the first in Colorado to receive  experimental treatment, antibody-rich convalescent plasma.

(credit: Leonard family)

“I’m like Rip Van Winkle. I went in there and was on a ventilator in three hours and slept for 35 days and woke up and was happy to be alive,” Leonard said.

On day 40, there was an emotional reunion.

“Oh my God,” said Leonard’s wife, Meg. She was in the hospital parking lot looking up.

With help, Michael waved to her and son, Matthew, from a hospital window. Michael went home weak and 31 pounds lighter, but eternally grateful for his care at UCHealth.

“These people came in every day to take care of me with an untreatable disease that could put them at risk and they never hesitated,” he said.

Leonard has attended class for COVID-19 survivors, supervised exercise for those who spent weeks in intensive care.

“I’m pretty close to having recovered strength and endurance,” he said.

(credit: Leonard family)

He is thrilled that he has gotten a vaccine.

“I kind of went ten rounds with Mike Tyson the first time. We don’t need a rematch,” Leonard said with a laugh.

Leonard said he hasn’t suffered from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I kind of made a conscious decision that I’m looking out the windshield, not in the rear-view mirror.”

Leonard has spent time focusing on his first grandchild, Hazel.

“You know it’s just healing, just this warm, little, snuggly bundle of life and it just was healing for us.”

Life is good for this COVID-19 survivor.

“The silver lining to this is it made it very clear to me what’s most important in life and that’s not being busy in a job or making a bunch of money or driving fancy cars, it’s the human connection.”