American Stroke Month: NYC lawyer celebrates 10th anniversary of surviving a stroke by providing pro bono legal services to asylum seekers

Pierre Georges Bonnefil’s stroke story starts in his Manhattan apartment, as he would say, with his wife, Marysia. It was she who recognized the signs of a stroke F.A.S.T. in February 2013. Bonnefil, a 55-year-old partner at a law firm at the time, failed to answer several questions from Marysia. When she looked at him, the left side of his face was drooping and his fingers in the left hand had curled up. She knew to immediately call 9-1-1, enabling the system of emergency care that would save his life.

This May, Bonnefil celebrates American Stroke Month having reached an important milestone: surviving ten years post-stroke. By all accounts, he is thriving. He is a partner at Duane Morris in New York City with an office overlooking Time Square. He has a beautiful wife and accomplished daughter. In his spare time, he provides pro bono services to immigrants who might not receive legal representation otherwise. He’s won cases that were life and death for transgender asylum seekers who can’t return to their country of origin out of fear of sexual violence and death.

Pierre says he’s turned the gift of a new decade of life into enjoying love from his family and purpose in his career. 

In these ten years he’s seen his daughter grow up to graduate from medical school and become a doctor.  He’s traveled the world and has been recognized for the advocacy of his people in Haiti and the francophone diaspora, too.

Bonnefil began volunteering with the American Heart Association in 2019 when it published research about the health impact of working long hours for multiple years in certain stressful professions, including law.

In July 2019, Bonnefiel and Dr. Rafael Ortiz, a renowned neuroscientist and surgeon, who serves as President of the Association’s New York City board, were invited to speak and share their story on Fox 5’s The 6 O’clock News.

Bonnefil and Marysia welcomed the Fox 5 crew into their apartment in midtown Manhattan to recount what happened the morning of his stroke. That evening, New York television legend Ernie Anastos welcomed Dr. Ortiz for a live interview in the studio and aired the Bonnefils’ story during the broadcast.

Bonnefil helps spread awareness for the FAST warning signs:

Face Drooping

Arm Weakness

Speech Difficulty

Time to Call 9-1-1

Most recently Bonnefil has been actively sharing his story in support of the NYC Counsel for a Cause efforts that aim to raise awareness about heart and brain health for those in the legal field.  The campaign hosted an event on May 3 at Tribeca 360  to leverage the network’s ability to support bringing health education to address community needs and raise much-needed funds for the American Heart Association’s mission.

This American Stroke Month he wants to raise awareness about mental health and depression after a stroke. According to a statement by the American Stroke Association, depression is a common experience for stroke survivors. Research indicates that about one-third of stroke survivors experience depression.

“There are days when I don’t feel like myself, but I try not to go down the rabbit hole. Fortunately, I have my family to pick me up,” Bonnefil said. “My three tips to help fellow stroke survivors are: listen to your body; surround yourself with family and friends; and, remember, that recovery is a marathon, not a sprint,”

Bonnefil spoke with the American Heart Association’s Diego Ortiz Quintero this month and shared a message of hope, accomplishment and gratitude. Please watch the video above.

Pierre Georges Bonnefil is proud to raises awareness about stroke and the FAST warning signs with the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. On May 15, 2023, his story was featured on WPIX with reporter Monica Morales.