Sharing My Covid Experience With The Chamber

Note: Earlier this week, the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce hosted a webinar on Covid featuring a panel of distinguished health care professionals. I was asked to share my experiences which I was happy and honored to do. We need to raise awareness as this disease continues to run rampant. I want to thank Chamber President Stephanie Immelman, Angelica Vasquez of the Chamber and my good friend Dr. Craig Spodak for their efforts and for including me. The response was terrific and I was asked to share my comments by those who missed the broadcast. I’ve included a transcript below, but I urge you to watch the webinar because there is a ton of great information to help keep you safe. The webinar is available on youtube, Facebook (Chamber page) and the

I want to thank the Chamber for giving me the opportunity to share my story with everyone today…

It’s a privilege for me to share my experience because I hope that by raising awareness maybe we can—in a small way—do our part to save lives and keep the people we love safe and healthy.

My goal today…is to give you a glimpse of my Covid experience.

I’m just one of almost 10 million plus cases in America—my hope is that I can make those statistics we are bombarded with a little more real. They are more than numbers on a TV screen—they are real people.

I did not have a common case—I had a severe one. But while my experience may be statistically unlikely— it is possible to get very sick. This virus is real and it is dangerous.

But as bad as it was for me….it could have been worse. We have lost more than 230,000 Americans to this virus.

That is a staggering number.

And while I got sick in the July surge, we are in the midst of an even worse outbreak now.

So I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be careful and to follow the advice of the experts.

Because while I survived and am feeling much better…..I do have lingering problems. Like me, there are potentially millions of others who continue to suffer symptoms and long haul impacts to their health.

My friends, you don’t want this virus.


My Covid experience, was a nightmare. There’s really no other word for it.

There were entire days and nights where I did not believe that I was going to survive. And that is an emotional experience that I never anticipated, don’t wish on anyone and am still trying to process.

I want to paint a picture of where I was pre-Covid….

I had been working remotely for months. I wore a mask. I socially distanced. I washed my hands—a lot. I stopped going to the gym but did work out with a trainer in a friend’s garage. I did go to restaurants—I wanted to support our local businesses.


I was a month and a half short of my 56th birthday when I went to Bethesda Hospital on Friday, July 10 to get a rapid test because I was feeling tired and was running a slight fever. I had actually gone into my office that day for the first time for a brief meeting where I sat six feet away from a colleague.

Those who saw me said I looked very tired….I went home and took a nap. When I woke up I felt warm. My wife Diane took my temperature and I was running a slight fever. I wanted to take a Tylenol and go back to bed—my wife insisted that I call my doctor. She didn’t want take a chance since we were heading into the weekend.

That was my first break. I called Doctor Paige Morris and she insisted that I go to Bethesda for a rapid test. I said a quick goodbye to Diane and left for the hospital—not knowing that I wouldn’t see her for 39 days.

At Bethesda, I was diagnosed with Covid-19 and told that I had double pneumonia. Within hours, I was struggling to breathe. I am convinced that had I not gone to the hospital, I would not have made the night.

I was that sick.

Getting a bad case of Covid—one that spreads to your lungs is like getting hit by a truck that repeatedly backs over you.

That night began a nearly 6-week battle to survive—with every breath labored, every part of your body weak and in pain and a feeling that there is no way out…no way back to your life and your loved ones.

I had what was described as a violent case of pneumonia that was ravaging my lungs. I have mild asthma and this virus seems to attack where you are most vulnerable.

There were at least two times where I felt I was going to die and I had this one recurring thought and it was about my late mother who we lost to cancer at 59.

In the 22 years since her passing, as my children grew up, as birthdays passed, as good and not so good things happened to those she loved—I always thought about how much she missed.

She never met my wife Diane, the love of my life.

She didn’t get to see her grandchildren grow up and she didn’t get to meet Diane’s boys.

In short, she was robbed of our greatest gift—time. And now here I was four years younger thinking that I won’t even make it to her age. And how much of life I will miss. I thought of all the people I love—many on this call—and how I never got to say goodbye or to sit down with each and every one of them and tell them what a gift they have been to my life.


There was a night in the ICU—where I could tell by the sense of urgency that my nurses seem to have as they hovered over me—that I was in real trouble. I don’t remember too much, I was very weak, but I remember this urge to let go.

It was as if the virus was beckoning to me—I can’t explain it, but it was palpable. And I felt that I needed to make a choice—I could let go, that seemed to be the easy route. Or I could fight. And I decided to fight. I wasn’t sure that I could win, but I wasn’t going to let go. I just wasn’t going to let go.

I prayed—a lot. And I concentrated on every breath, Breathe in, breathe out.

I felt like I was suffocating. I just couldn’t get air. And that is a horrifying experience.

As the days and weeks passed, I was on a variety of oxygen—including a bipap mask—that felt like putting a hurricane on your face. They strap it on tight and it forces air into your lungs.

My eyes burned, I ended up with blood clots and bladder spasms and pain I cannot describe. They gave me morphine and it didn’t really dull the pain. The masks are very claustrophobic—and I wore the most restrictive ones for up to 7 hours at a time.

I feared going to sleep because I wasn’t sure I was going to wake up. I only slept when I was exhausted and couldn’t stay up anymore.

I had some really strange dreams—which is common with Covid. I dreamt that I was wandering Delray at night with my golden retriever Teddy who recently passed and I dreamt that I was hiding in the hospital. When I awoke, the steroids that I was on would sometimes leave me unable to figure out where I was in the room. I thought the TV was on the ceiling. I was completely disoriented.

I often was awakened by screams from my neighbor whose Covid affected her brain and gave her hallucinations. Those screams ended up haunting me, because it’s just hard to hear a human being going through that—and not be able to offer comfort.

Being in ICU or a Covid unit is a very unique experience. You are essentially alone for 39 days—24 hours a day left to your thoughts. No visitors.

The only humans you see come dressed in two layers of PPE—you can’t even see their eyes. —I was in 8 different rooms, many with no windows that I could see out of. There was a lot of equipment and the rooms were something called negative pressure—the hospital air couldn’t get in and my air couldn’t get out.

It was loud and it was lonely.

Now, I had the most amazing nurses. And my Doctor, Paige Morris came to see me every single day which was amazing.

Dr. Morris served as my Quarterback and advocate, answering questions, holding my hand, reassuring me, keeping my spirits up and just chatting because the nurses are so busy and overwhelmed that when they come in they have to focus on all those wires sticking in your arms and glued to your chest. I can’t say enough about Doctor Morris and my pulmonologist Dr. Nevine Carp, who also came to my listen to my lungs every day.

The staff at Bethesda is so good. They are truly amazing. They saved me. We are so blessed to have these health care professionals in our community. They are heroes and right now and for much of this year they have been under fire and stressed to the max.

We have to—as a society—consider their needs and listen to their advice. It’s not enough to have an I Heart Nurses bumper sticker—we have to do what we can to support them and try our best to keep infections under control.


My case hit the news—-and it’s not because I am special. So many other cases worse than mine go unreported, but I suppose my being a former mayor of Delray was newsworthy.

We are a small town…and I knew some of the hospital staff and they knew me. A few of them came by for quick hello’s—which I loved.

I had one young nursing assistant who actually spent her breaks in my room talking to me about her boyfriend, her dreams to further study medicine and the fact that I must have seen her dance at Delray’s Cinco De Mayo festival when she was a little girl and I was mayor.

That young woman, was a gift from G-d. She raised my spirits just by allowing me to be a real person for 15 minutes here and there.

Early on, I decided that I wanted to communicate as best I could to the outside world about what Covid was like—so I saved up my strength and once a day I would post an update on Facebook.

The response was wonderful…soon prayer groups formed and I think I heard from almost everyone I’ve ever met. Old friends from childhood, former teachers, people I’ve worked with….it was wonderful and their prayers and kind words also saved me. I am so grateful and so blessed. I do believe in the power of prayer—and when prayer and medical angels get together—you get to live. You get another shot at life.

While at Bethesda, I received state of the art medical care—two doses of convalescent plasma thanks to an overwhelming response from the community to donate…I had steroids to help me breathe, I got a course of Remdeservir, lots of vitamin D and round the clock monitoring by wonderful doctors and nurses.

I made it out—after 39 days.

I came home on oxygen, weak and using a walker. Lots of therapy, hard work, love, prayers, medical skill, family and friends are helping me get back to being myself.


My lungs are scarred—but they are healing. I have headaches every day, I’m very sore, I have some brain fog and lots of pain in my left leg and my right arm which makes sleeping difficult.

I think it’s important to share that I am getting counseling because I have what they call “survivor’s guilt” and a touch of anxiety. Ok, more than a touch.

I know I was saved for a reason and I am working hard to figure out how I can make the best of my second chance.

I love my family and friends even more. And words cannot express what Diane has meant through my illness and my recovery. Every moment of every day I was determined to survive so I could come home to this wonderful love that we have found.

I am worried about lingering impacts—covid is a vascular disease and there is still so much that they don’t know. Sometimes I get frustrated when I am winded after a short walk, but I remember that when I came home I worried about how I was going to walk from the car into my house.

Still, I’m so grateful. I was spared….so many aren’t.

If you take anything away from my story I hope it’s this. Covid is real. Covid can be deadly. So, please, please be vigilant. Let’s follow the science, let’s employ common sense and let’s support each other during this difficult time—especially our front line medical professionals and our essential workers.

Thank you so much for this incredible opportunity to share my story.  It means the world to me and my family.


  1. Marusca Gatto says

    Thank you for sharing your story and being a true leader in every sense of the word. It’s wonderful to see you face and see you doing well although there are still challenges ahead. We will continue to send up prayers for your continued healing. All the best,

  2. Patricia Sciarillo says

    Wishing you the best that you will be back to 100% soon. It is scary and some of my friends just don’t get it. I have had groceries delivered since March. have been out to Dr. Appointments. Then last month I decided to.have lunch with 4 other ladies, all who.had quarantined. We went to a restaurant nearby. We sat in every other chair. Wore masks in and when leaving. All help wore masks. I will continue doing this until it is safe and a vaccine has been established. I’m in my 70’s have RA and a bit overweight so I have 3 strikes against me already! Why take a chance. If we all don’t do our part this will never go away. Prayers for your continued good health. Keep fighting!.

  3. Mariann Gerwig says

    I know I repeat myself, but you are awesome. There are people that tell their medical experiences with the motivation of getting attention. You have never presented your story for that purpose, you have and continue to get people to understand that this is not “the flu” this is a monster that attacks people without mercy. People like you that are lucky enough to return to some version of your pre-COVID life, still face the chance that there could be side effects from the virus or treatments you needed to fight, the stress and emotional issues that are long lasting. Yet your motivation from the start has been to warn others. To get people to understand this is not something to mess with. I really hope you continue spreading your story and experience, because I think it is more important now. People tend to get complacent after nine months, they stop being proactive and vigilance wanes.

  4. Maria Colonna says

    WOW! Thank you for sharing your story. It is quite profound and extremely touching. I cried while reading the transcript. I will continue to pray for your well being. Also, I will pray for all victims of this virus. God bless you, Diane and family.

  5. I hadn’t read an account like yours of being a patient up until now. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad you’re healing and I wish you continued good health.

  6. So glad to hear this story… so many just don’t understand the dangers of the disease and do not take the necessary steps to limit their risk. This illness does not discriminate and we all possible victims no matter what steps we do take. So happy that you are able to tell the story… Best wishes

  7. Debra Brownstein says

    Your profound story is inspirational and informative. I feel grateful that regarding COVID-19, you have given me so many insights; how to prevent, fight, and recover. I hope you do a TED Talk and more major media interviews and continue to get the word out. So many people don’t think COVID-19 is real and I feel if they just listened to your very personal revealing journey, they could become believers. You definitely put a face on this virus and hopefully will save many lives.

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