Q) Uncle Stan, you had a triple bypass a few years ago. If I ask you to recount the experience, what is your first, knee-jerk reaction?
I hope I never have to go through that again (laughing).
Q) When did you suspect that something was wrong? What made you seek medical attention?
I remember being out on a bike ride and not feeling well, I knew something was off. I went to see my doctor the same day.
Q) And from there, things escalated pretty quickly?
Yeah, I had an angiogram the next day. The cardiologist said that there was about 90 percent blockage (in the major arteries), and therefore a stent was not going to be adequate. Surgery was required.
Q) You wound up having open heart surgery within a week?
Yes. I asked a few trusted friends and physicians for a referral to a top cardiothoracic surgeon, and was able to get in to see Dr. Hartman at North Shore/ LIJ, a few days later.
Q) How did you mentally prepare for the surgery? That’s a serious brush with mortality.
Well I knew I had to have it done, or I wouldn’t be here. So I tried not to overthink it.
Q) I’m sure Woody Allen and Larry David would have approached it differently. Did you seek out a second opinion?
No. I trusted the people that referred me to Dr. Hartman and when we met him, he spoke really beautifully. He translated all the medical jargon into language that was easy to understand. I just felt comfortable with him.
Q) Did you go to synagogue ?
No, I didn’t. Of course, I had my own private dialogue with “The Big Man Upstairs”–but no–I didn’t go to the temple. I am grateful though, that our Rabbi came to visit me in the hospital while I was recovering.
Q) Did you read the pre-surgical consent form?
No. I just signed it. I had faith in the surgeon and I knew I needed the operation.
Q) How was the recovery process?
The first two weeks were really tough. I was discharged a week after the surgery, which was a bit premature according to my doctors, but I was itching to go home. However, I had to go back to the ER twice after my discharge because I was having severe night sweats and didn’t feel well.
Q) That sounds scary. We’re glad you’re doing so well now. I think it’s been 5 years since the surgery?
Yes. Knock-on-wood. Thank you.
Q) In retrospect is there anything “positive” that came out of that experience? Anything unexpected?
When I was recovering at home right after the surgery, a neighbor stopped by and brought me some novels to read. I was never a big reader my entire life. But now, I can’t stop reading. Reading has become a welcome joy.
Thank you for sharing your experience.
Interview with Stanley Ackerman.
Interview conducted by Eric Dessner MD