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Sheldon Leon

Sheldon Leon

Sheldon Leon is friendly but quiet. He always looks busy, nestled in the laboratory with spinning tubes and buzzing machines. Ask anyone and they will say he’s the sweetest guy.  But behind Sheldon’s shy, polite demeanor, many probably wouldn’t peg him for an adrenaline junky.  Fast cars, motorcycles and working out – that is his secret life.

He grew up skipping continents, thanks to his military father in Trinidad and his mother residing in New York. It was the best of both worlds, he said; island life and city experiences.

“I loved New York because it was a freedom almost like I never had,” Sheldon explained. “The island was more supervised.”

When he permanently moved to Florida in 2001 for better schooling, it was a bit of an adjustment, he said.

“At first, I was really sad, then, it was good being in one place,” Sheldon explained, reflecting on the quiet peacefulness of Marion County. “I just fell in love with Ocala.”

He made Ocala home. Nearly three years ago, while attending Taylor College for a nursing degree, Sheldon did an externship rotation through a laboratory and immediately knew he was in the wrong major.

The next day, he changed his major and began attending Community Technical and Adult Education for medical clinical laboratory technician certification.  During his 15-month course, he did an externship at Peterson and Smith Equine Hospital and was offered a position as soon as he was done with school. In March, he will celebrate his second year.

“The stuff that they have to do just seemed so exciting,” Sheldon said, comparing the work to investigating; having to analyze and test animal samples.  

With no equine experience at all, and changing his career path suddenly, he said it was a totally different direction than what he had imagined. The only thing he was certain on was wanting to be in the medical field.

There was a slight learning curve, he said. Luckily, he had technicians like Carolyn and Deana to help him along the way, he credited. Sheldon said he enjoys how his role in the laboratory is integral to finding the precise problem in the patient and performing the tests. The hardest part to learn, he said, was microbiology. 

“It definitely wasn’t what I expected, but it turned out to be better than what I expected,” Sheldon said. “The best part is not only seeing the horses or animals recover, it’s finding out the proper diagnosis for it and seeing the different animals and different stuff that we do.”   

 “What I like about (Peterson and Smith) is the people are willing to teach you. If you don’t know, they’re willing to teach. (They’re) so open-minded,” he said.

Though Sheldon loves his job and seems like a laid-back, easy going lab technician, his hobbies are the opposite. He fell in love with fast motor vehicles while he’s been in the States. Import cars like in the Fast and Furious movies and street bikes are his favorite. His face fills with excitement talking about his 2007 Kawasaki Ninja 636.

“I love the speed,” Sheldon said.

But nothing makes his eyes light up like talking about the greatest loves in his life: His girlfriend Alexis, the upcoming birth of their first baby, Lillyana, and his Rottweiler, Chico. He and Alexis met at the local YMCA where she worked and he attended the gym.

It was anything but love at first sight.

“Actually, I didn’t like her at first- I didn’t like her at all. The first time I met her she just got on my nerves. Every day that I would see her, I would pretty much give her crap,” he confessed, laughing.

Obviously, that didn’t last long, as they have been together for six years, and this spring expect their first baby. Lillyana Elizabeth is due in early May.

“Oh man, I’m so excited. I’m excited, happy and scared at the same time,” he said about being a new father. “It’s not just me anymore, it’s me and somebody else.”