#1: Surviving a heart attack

To all of you who sent get-well wishes, thank you from the bottom of my repaired heart!

Upon turning 60 in June, I remember morbidly if briefly wondering to myself whether I was entering the final ⅓, ¼, ⅕ or maybe tenth of my life. Little did I imagine that October 10, 2013, might be my last day.

Logically, most of us conscientiously avoid the thought of what might really happen tomorrow. Without some healthy denial, we’d never make it through the day — or go crazy first. So I’d like to share with you a very personal view of my recent crisis. It’s neither unique nor sad, but one from which I’ve learned to treasure both breathing and loved ones. I’ll leave out the gore and TMI parts, concentrating on what ran through my head and heart.

The Choice

I had come to NY representing Curiyo for a great 3-day Israel to NYC program. We were a 15-startup delegation, meeting with business partners, marketers, and investors, and an event Wednesday evening at the new WTC. Afterward, by Thursday 7:30AM morning, I checked out and ran off to the first two of six meetings before heading to JFK and home to Israel.

But I started feeling strong pains in the middle of my chest.

Now here was the moment of truth. Should I tough it out, get on the plane and deal with it all upon landing home? Or maybe admit the pain and walk into a NY emergency room.
Choice

What would you do?

In a rare smart moment, I took a cab to Beth Israel Medical Center on First Ave. & 16th. The ER doctor did a simple CPK blood test and EKG and said I had suffered a minor heart attack. A catheterization, however, would determine arterial blockage and treatment options: medication, stent, or surgery.

First, call Diane. Cancel my appointments via smartphone email. Cancel the flight via our great travel agent, Mark Feldman and Esther Salomon at Zion Tours (and extend medical insurance!) Our most amazing friend Martha came over to sit with me before the procedure. I gave her my hotel suitcase receipt and a few key passwords. At a moment like this, you find yourself thinking some pretty morbid thoughts and wondering whom you will ever see again. Will my children know how much I loved them?
Dr-H-R

Thursday evening was the “Cath-Lab”. I was treated by the wonderful Dr. Hugo Rosero. When I was awake enough to understand, he said, “Mr. Rosenschein, you must have done something good in your life, because the Lord has given you a second chance to live! It would have been a big mistake to get on that plane. You have 95% blockage in your main arteries and we need to operate on you tomorrow morning.”

Called Diane again: “The good news is that I’m alive! The bad news is that I need surgery in the morning.”

Birthday

They prepped and wheeled me into the operating room by 8AM. The anesthesiologist introduced himself. That’s all I remember.

But poor Diane, besides her sleepless night and long ride to Ben-Gurion, flew 12 hours with no status report. She’s not usually one of those fliers who turns on her cell phone the second the wheels touch down, but made an exception.

DarrylMHMeanwhile, back on the OR, my lifesaving cardiac surgeon Dr. Darryl Hoffman. “harvested” lengths of artery from both arms, opened up my chest, sawed open my sternum, and grafted arterial material to bypass my blocked arteries. Total time = 7.5 hours.

My new 2nd birthday is October 11, 2013, which is my 60th birthday + exactly 128 (2^7) days.

Diane, Martha, Elan, and Adam saw me asleep at my weakest, respirator down my throat, out of it.

I woke up late Friday night in the cardiac ICU. It was very quiet, and I was pretty sure I was alive. I was in pain and couldn’t breathe well, or even make a squeak. The nurses told me I was ok. Fell back asleep.

ICU

Diane arrived and stayed with Martha for the week. She is my strength, and we didn’t even need to talk much. The looks and hands and love were enough. God knows what I looked like!

The first few days after surgery, you may feel thankful to be alive, but they’re also depressing days. You’re really out of it, tubes, wires, and sensors coming out of you in a half-dozen directions. Swollen feet, hands. Pills, blood pressures, blood tests, stomach shots. Beeping monitors. Hard to fill your lungs. Can’t sit, can’t lie there. Everything hurts, because they just did a “reboot” on your body!

But getting the respirator tube out of my throat was cool, as was the very thought I survived, even if not out of the woods yet.

One morning, I asked the nurses if I could sit in a chair, just to move around, thinking I could move back to the bed when I wanted. Hah, what a mistake! They wouldn’t let me, saying it was good to sit for 30-45 minutes. Clears the lungs of fluids. After 45 minutes, they upped it to 2 hours. By the time the doctor did his rounds and said, sure I could go back to bed, it was 2 hours and 34 minutes…

Of course, they were right, and my care was top-notch, warm and pleasant at Beth Israel. I’m just mentioning how you feel when you’re going through it.

Room 28

BalloonsOn Monday, they released me from ICU to the recuperation ward on the 10th floor, to a single room, perfect #28. A whole new set of great professional care, specialized and working 12-hour shifts.

Hospital privacy BTW is an oxymoron; enough said.

I was hallucinating from the painkiller Percocet. In the middle of one night, on an imaginary screen on the wall, I dreamed a killer product. In the morning, I remember thinking, nah. I also changed painkillers and then weaned myself.

Can’t say I was impressed by the 99 channel-TV. First, the political discourse in America has become so shrill over the last decade. Lots of shouting, minimum compromise. Now, living in Israel, you see much polarization, little empathy. But this is America. The other thing is, at least in the middle of the night, it’s half commercials, with those delightful legalisms, “This medicine may help you, if you do not suffer the following 8 side effects…”

Within a few days, I was tubeless and able to put on my own socks and walk around the ward, assisted. And showered (mulțumesc, Drago from Romania)!

Every day I felt stronger, able to breathe, talk and move around better. And I couldn’t get the realization and smile of being alive off my face!

Dr. Hoffman knew how much better I would be released. Thursday morning, they wanted to give me a flu shot and a pneumonia vaccine. I asked if they could do it right before leaving… I didn’t want anything to prevent my release.

At 11:15, one week to the hour after walking in, I left Beth Israel Hospital, grateful and happy. My cousin Rita and Barry drove Diane and me to Harrisburg. I slept most of the way.

Harrisburg

MomVisiting my dear mother, who is 92, has been a delight. Diane and she are sharing the caretaking burden. We have also been doing a lot of resting, walking around the block (the smell of autumn leaves and rain in Pennsylvania), eating heart-healthy, and just gathering our strength.

We had a pleasant surprise Monday night. Our friend Meir was driving from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and stopped by for dinner and a visit. What the doctor ordered.
Meir-Bob

I’m told my voice and color have improved. I’m breathing much better. I’ve lost 15 pounds (=6.5kg) and Diane 5 (=2kg). Diane calls this the “high-anxiety diet”.

We’ve had a few visitors and many warm wishes from afar.

Conclusion(s)

That you take it all for granted is obvious, normal, but…
DO take a moment to fill your lungs, relishing each breath.
DO slow down, you move too fast.” (Simon & Garfunkel)
DO NOT think this cannot happen to you, whether now or in 10 years. Our health is a hard-to-fathom complex of genetics and environment. Whether stress, diet, sleep or exercise, improve what you can.
DO grasp that your family and loved ones are not the most important thing, they’re your only thing. Tell them you love them, every day, in word and deed.

Tomorrow

So what’s next? Well, we hope to land in Israel Tuesday afternoon, to start to getting back into our lives at home. I know it will be neither immediate nor 100%, but we are ready.

I’m ready to get back to work at Curiyo, too. First, the team, Akiva, Asher, Daniel, Ruthie, Gil, Jay and Liz, have really risen to the occasion, getting everything that needed to be done done. Second, I’m more excited than ever about the publishing platform we are building. With our first big partnership about to launch, we’re in good shape.

Now you might think that this is not the ideal time to raise money, post heart-attack. But I’m encouraged by what two investors told me recently. One said, “Bob, besides your accomplishments, you were broken and now you’re fixed.” The other said it just wouldn’t be smart-investing to bet against me. Thanks, both, I guess it’s not about falling down, but about how you get up.

In short, I’m excited about tomorrow!

Credits

No matter whom I thank, it won’t be enough, and I’ll miss some, but I need to make a few mentions.

To the team and staff of Beth Israel Medical Center, how do you find the words of gratitude to express keeping you alive?

Thank you to Dov & Julia for your visit, to Meir, Akiva, and Avi & Yedida for your calls. And to Tzvi & Adi for those great get-well-Sabba cards and stickers.

Lee, also Amy, thank you for offering to Diane to drop everything and get on the plane with her!

Pamela & Marshall, thank you for offering to open your home to Diane in NY.

Thank you for the balloons (picture above), Amy & Jonathan. And flowers, Cedar Fund (Curiyo investor) and Answers Corp.

Thank you for the visits, Elan, Adam & Shari, Alan & Steven, Nancy, Shiye, Martin, Dinah, Rita & Barry, Eddie & Sherri, Viv & Haim, Freda, Arthur,  Steve & Enid, Bert & Myrna.

And calls: Mom, Stan, Jeff, Lee, Laurel, Lynn, Michael, Amy & Jonathan, Sasson & Tami, Sigi!, Ari, Sara, Rhea, Koby & Dina, Judi & Shmuel, Tsivie, Volvi & Pesi, Leonard & Deanna, Tsivia, Sam, Steve, Cali, Bruce, Faigie & Norm, Donna & Jacob, Martin & Maris, and Serl. And special encouragement: Motti, Mark, Jon, Michael (your post that week, exaggerated though it be, was a kindness I’ll never forget).

Thank you everyone for your cards, e-mails, Facebook messages, and warm thoughts.

Rita & Barry, thank you for taking the time and care to transport us safely to Pennsylvania and cook us several meals and generally take care of us.

Judy, the baskets were enough, the visit was enough, but driving us back to New York next week is over and above.

Martha, we will never forget your taking care of Diane and me that challenging week, opening your home, your schedule and heart, and being there for us.

Mom, you shouldn’t have to nurse your golden-ager son! But you do it with a unique love that we’ll never forget.

Diane, my brown-eyed girl, there are no words! Let’s grow old together, enjoying our families and friends in nachat and good health. You are simply my life.

Diane-Bobby

 


Also published on Medium.

97 Replies to “#1: Surviving a heart attack”

  1. Bob,

    I’m so glad you’re alive, and thank you for sharing your story.There’s no weakness in this, it shows enormous strength to be able to recognize and deal with this. Thank God you are OK, and I can’t wait to see you next time!

    Dave

  2. Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to share this with us! Don’t think for a second we haven’t been thinking about you over the last week+. It’s such a relief to hear the updates from you and Diane.

    One more thing… I just want to say I’m very proud of you… for making the right choice that day and walking into the hospital. One thing I know about you – you’re a go-getter, you’re unstoppable… And thank god in this case you chose to be unstoppable about your personal health and not getting on the plane to squeeze in the trip back to Israel.

    So glad you had an excellent medical team and the loving support you deserve. Yes, you have done many many good things in your life to deserve a second birthday and beyond… and the same of course goes for Diane – I can’t imagine a better partner-in-recovery than Diane! Enjoy the rest of your recovery and American Northeast autumn!

    1. Thanks, Liz… it did take some energy to put it out there! And I appreciate your kind words and pride, too! I don’t know about unstoppable, but it was a good feeling to make the occasional right choice. And you’re right, there ain’t no better partner — in recovery or anything — than Diane!

  3. Dear Bob,
    Your heartfelt, eloquent ruminations brought tears to my eyes. Unfortunately, we tend to take life for granted, and only realize how precious it is and how precious are the people closest to us, when crisis strikes. TG, you were in great hands at Beth Israel, where my late parents received superb care throughout. Yael joins me in wishing you a refu’a shleima, as I wrote in an earlier e-mail. May you and Diane enjoy many years of good health, joy, and growth together.
    Shabbat shalom!
    Fondly,
    Monty

  4. Dear Bob, I just heard the news this week and am delighted that you are fine after this ordeal. I find it hard to believe however that you are ‘new and improved’ seeing as you are among the best people on this earth already. So a big virtual hug, and look forward to singing TL songs with you at the earliest opportunity. Love, Mel

  5. So glad to hear that you are on the mend! You’ve always had a big heart! Keep it figuratively, not literally! Many good wishes to you and Diane! Thank you for keeping us all updated. 🙂

  6. Bob, we haven’t stayed in close touch, but it’s been nice to reconnect somewhat via FaceBook. Obviously, I didn’t know about any of this as it was occurring, but I’m delighted to know that you are not only on the road to full recovery, but beautifully articulate about your optimism in the face of this experience. Having shared the same milestone quite recently (my birthday fell shortly after your surgery on October 13) I had the same questions about mortality, but, surrounded as I was by all of my loved ones, who came to celebrate with me, I did reach the same conclusions about the inter-relationship between family and blessing. I hope you will continue to enjoy a refuah shleymah and proceed mey’chayil el chayil, in work and in health.

  7. Bob,
    I’m so glad for your quickness of thought and your recovery. Thank you for this blog, it was so heart warming! I’ve always thought how lucky you and Diane were ! Wishes for Love, luck , health and happiness to you and yours now and always,
    Ellen

  8. Oh Bobby, if only we could all truly know and do these things without having to almost die first! You’ve written this beautifully and I’m going to try to remember your message … as well as try to get it across to my beloved husband!

    Be well and hurry home. We look forward to seeing you and Diane in Jerusalem.

    Fondly, Marc and Tami

  9. Bob, while I can’t imagine what you and Diane have been through, your post gave me some insight and, more importantly, a wake up call. Thank you for sharing.

    Looking forward to seeing you fit and healthy back in NYC soon.

  10. Bob! Reading this kept bringing tears to my eyes… Thank God for the happy ending. Please stay healthy and strong. Warm regards to you, Diane and the family.

  11. Hey, Bobby,
    Your clear rendition of events certainly shows you are coming back to yourself, as
    this is so you!!!….And, yes, you are so right about what you wrote!
    Waiting to see you at home…..Love to all your wonderful caretakers and family!!

  12. Bobby ( and Diane ) ,

    First– I always knew you were a very smart guy — and not heading for the airport is perhaps one of your wisest decision ever … ok it ties with Diane!
    This is an amazingly moving account . It is hard not to vicariously learn just a few of the lessons and wise counsel you offered to each of us.
    Sending my love to you and Diane. I know you have been and continue to be in loving hands – and glad Judy could be your sherpa and get you and Diane back on the plane to Israel.
    Love,
    Mimi

  13. Bob, thanks for sharing. A “second birthday” is a wonderful concept. And what a way to wrap up the post 🙂 Hugs to you both.

  14. Bobby!

    Just saw this — I am so happy that you are Yourself Again (but “fixed” as one of your other correspondents so aptly put it!). It did seem such an irony — that your heart, the biggest heart on the planet, needed such repair. But I’m certain that’s just because it is in Overdrive for all of the rest of us every day.

    You and Diane are my heroes — and you both keep getting better and better.

    Remarkable.
    love,
    Martha

  15. I am sorry you have had to go through this but so glad you have come out of it so well. Thank you for the blog and insights reminding us of what is really important in life.

  16. Thanks Bob. I knew this was going to be a great read and super-inspirational and you didn’t let me down. I especially loved: “And showered (mulțumesc, Drago from Romania)”. You are one-and only and I continue to learn from you how to be a mentch. Stay healthy with Dianne – עמו”ש.

    1. Thanks, Steve, for your very kind words. I didn’t really know how to say thank you in Rumanian to Drago after that shower. But I did have a smartphone in the room… so… with Google Translate ever close, I put a smile on his face, too. Warm regards to your beautiful family.
      — Bob

  17. Thank you Bob for a very moving post.
    Just one comment – please delete the “#1” from the header!!! This experience of yours surely shouldn’t have a sequel….:-)
    And please – get a rest and don’t reply! I’m sure your doctors wont be happy to see the amount of your replies.
    Hugs to both of you, Diane and Bob, and have a safe trip back home.

  18. Bob, I don’t know you..I am a friend of Jon Medved. Jon posted your story on FB. It was very touching and emotional for me. I turned 60 in July. But in February, two weeks after a minor car accident which wasn’t my fault, I had brain surgery for a brain tumor. Luckily it was benign but even so it was large and was compromising every aspect of my life. The head of brain tumors at Johns Hopkins had been monitoring me for four years but said my brain wasn’t unhappy and the risk of surgery far outweighed the benefits. But then it became an emergency as the tumor had grown large and was putting pressure on my brain.

    So I underwent brain surgery. I was scared to death. But my wonderful Dr. Quinones, or Dr. Q as his patients call him, was so reassuring and kind. It almost made brain surgery a pleasant experience!

    So 8 months out I am a new person..never taking anything or anyone for granted. I live life to the fullest and I don’t put anything off.

    So like you I guess February 16 was actually my 60th birthday and my actual birthday was just icing on the cake.

    Glad you are doing well. Enjoy every moment..life is just so precious.

    Jane Zweig

    1. Jane, thank you for reaching out to me with your special story. I wish you continued health — and my that second birthday and new person feeling stay with you for many long and healthy years!
      — Warm regards,
      Bob

  19. Bob, I had no idea! It is a pure miracle that you found it when you did and that you were in a place to get the amazing medical attention you received. Your recount of the events and whole attitude toward it is inspirational. As you said yourself “I guess it’s not about falling down, but about how you get up.” I wish you a continued speedy recovery .

    Best Regards,

    Hillel

    1. Hillel, thank you for your beautiful comment. It was a special week in many ways, and I got to meet you (and Jonathan S.), too! I look forward to celebrating more time together.
      — Very best,
      Bob

  20. Hello Bob,

    I am so sorry with all that you have gone through recently. Oftentimes we are so consumed with life and I didn’t realize you went through this until I saw a message from Jonathan on his FB page. God Bless you and your family. Our bodies are “alarm clocks” signaling when we have a problem. God wanted you to get into the hospital asap and get evaluated and have this surgery rather than jump on the flight back to Tel Aviv. Your experience and the way you shared with all of us really puts things into perspective and reinforces how we look at life today and tomorrow, about how we treat others, whether they are family and friends and show them how much we love them. You truly inspire! Over the past 2 and a half years, I’ve been caring for my youngest daughter Abigail who has been overcoming a multitude of health issues and her experience and hearing what you have just gone through synchs in well. We cannot take anything for granted. God Bless You Bob and I wish you speedy recovery.

    – Johnny Oram

      1. Thank you Bob! Safe journeys back home. Glad all is well. I appreciate your thoughts as well in regards to Abigail. God Bless You!

  21. Dear Bob, so glad that you are feeling better. Just heard about the heart attack from Daniel on Thursday afternoon. Thank you for sharing your experience and your wise words. Sending you healing thoughts. Warm wishes to both you and Diane. Devorah

      1. Bob,
        We’ve been following your progress thru our son. Your message is as usual an inspiring one, Keep the good news flowing . Our best wishes are with you for a complete recovery. One of our friends said that the best family includes the friends you choose. All these messages of love and support show what a large family you have! Our best to Dianne.

        Elaine and Sy Brief

        1. Dear Mr. and Mrs. Brief,
          Thanks for your warm words. You’re absolutely right about friends becoming like family, and that’s the way we feel about yours. I hope you’ve had a good visit to Israel, and I look forward to seeing you in the future at many smachot.
          — Bob

  22. Dear Bobby,

    This is the first I heard of your recent ordeal, and I must admit, I was quite shocked, but I am so happy to hear that you are B”H, doing really well. It sounds like you had amazing “Hashgacha Pratit” in this whole journey, and you are truly a very lucky man! I also see that you have quite a fan club–between family and friends–and I am sure that all their Tefillos and your “maasim tovim” had a lot to do with your recovery.

    I suppose that the fact that this happened to you right after I celebrated my “big one” gave me quite a jolt, and as you said, it’s a not-so-gentle reminder to make every day count . May you continue to get stronger day by day and have many happy and healthy years ahead of you, surrounded by your loving friends and family.

    Reena

    1. Reena,
      How good to hear from you! I count myself a very lucky (blessed) man, in general and in this crisis, too. You wouldn’t believe the warmth and love I’ve felt from family and friends in the last two weeks.
      I knew it was your birthday recently — you and Norman and Jon Lennon, for that matter : ) even if I wasn’t focused on it.
      May you celebrate many many years of good health and nachat from your growing family. Thank you for the note, and I hope we’ll see each again sometime in Israel.
      — Bobby

  23. Wow thank you so much for sharing! Amazing how one decision can be such a life changer. You are in our thoughts! Refuah Shlema from My parents, Shimi, the kids and I.

  24. Thank you so much for sharing your story. We’ve all been worried about you. It’s great to get the update. I hope that your healing progress is swift and with as little pain as possible. Refuah Shelama!

    1. Thanks, Rena! Walt M. told me to expect two steps forward, one step back. It’s true. But mostly, I’m just happy to be here! Looking forward to celebrating good times with you and your wonderful family.
      — Bob

  25. Dear Bob,

    This was just forwarded to me via mutual friends. Sorry to hear you had such difficult experience, but we’re very happy you got through it and Debbie and I wish you a רפואה שלמה. Hope to see you and Diane next time we’re in Israel (our daughter Sharona recently made Aliya, so hopefully that will be soon). Also wishing you success in (and interested in learning more about) your new venture.

    Love to the family (including Jeff & family),

    Nadav Nahshon

    P.S. If you have time and inclination for a quick call, you can find my phone number via my LinkedIn profile.

  26. I’m so sorry to hear you had to go through that nightmare, but equally glad that you had such a miraculous recovery. Thank G-d you had the sense not to get on that plane.

    Wonderful that your family was there for you.

    Stay healthy!!!!

    Susan

      1. I’d be happy to share vegetarian recipes with Dianne. Half of our family said goodbye to meat (but not to fish) a long time ago. We aren’t missing anything.

  27. Hi Bob
    Had no idea – but very glad it all worked out. we can compare sternotomy scars next time I see you. take care and see you soon
    yadin

  28. Dear Bob,

    I am so glad that you are doing well and only sorry that I am learning of this late. Thank you for expressing your experience so eloquently and articulately. As you recuperate, I am almost certain that someone will remember your decision tree and your words will save another person’s life as surely as your decision saved your own.

    I wish you well in every way.

    Sincerely,

    Don Levy

  29. There were a couple of thoughts I would add: That Thursday started out so well for me – I was joking with Julia and friends at work on how ז’ חשון – that Friday – was one of my favorite days of the year (the day they start asking for טל ומטר in Israel). When I got the call from Mom at 8:15pm (3am in Israel) and heard the news I went into a daze. I spent most of ז’ חשון worried that that day would be your yartzeit (and I’ll bet Avi, Akiva and Meir did too). And after Martha told me you were out of surgery I was shaking with relief. I still didn’t come out of that daze for a while after that – even after I saw you in the hospital and was assured that you were predicted to recover. So while you might celebrate the 10th of October, I’ll still be remembering your real second birthday, ז’ חשון. (Incidentally, next year October 10th will be the second day of Succot).

  30. Bob,
    Thanks to the new facebook which is making some weird choices about what shows up in my newsfeed, I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t see the news until today! I shouted out to Myla who told me she did see it on FB and assumed I had. The blog post is wonderful as is your reaction to this frightening episode, and I just wanted to say, much too late, how happy I am that you are still here to tell the story. The world needs you badly.
    –Larry

    1. Larry, what a wonderful note — especially your last sentence! Diane says her Facebook news feed also didn’t show my post, and she’s my wife! Looking forward to celebrating many good times together.
      — Warm regards,
      Bob

  31. Bob,

    Thank you so much for sharing this post.
    Dr. Hugo Rosero was partially right. Bob you have done much more then something good in your life… you have done countless good things. It is your positive attitude and belief in the good in people that make you and those around you shine.
    I wish you many years of good health, happiness, exciting innovations with your amazing wife Diane and the rest of your family.
    I truly appreciated all of Diane’s facebook posts.
    Glad to hear you are feeling better.
    Hope to see you soon.

    Leah

  32. Receiving and reading your post, in the middle of a normal day-work, inspired me to make some change in my life. Now.
    Thanks for sharing and telling your personal story.
    I’ll definitely keep it in mind.

  33. Dear Bob:
    What touches me the most is there showed up so many kind and brave people in your heroic story! In China we have the saying that “heroes are made by all”. I’m simply moved by you all. You all deserve a sweet life.
    Huiruo

  34. Somehow missed this entire episode — not sure how but thrilled you came thru with flying colors & are still with us. Gratitude is key & even before this Bob, you always knew your priorities & understood gratitude at its core. Hugs!

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