By Lloyd Graff
August 29, is the second anniversary of the day I almost died. I hesitate to revisit it in this blog because I’ve already written about it extensively in the magazine. But I am of the philosophy that you should never let a good crisis (or the memory of one) go to waste, so I’m going to bring it up once more.
IMTS 2008 was coming up, but I was feeling so crappy I didn’t care. I had spent two weeks pretending to vacation with my family in Michigan. I drove home with my daughter Sarah and remember feeling so depressed I barely spoke during the hour and a half drive. A week later, my wife Risa and I sullenly drove 55 miles to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, Illinois. I walked to the doctors office of my friend, Dr. Chris Costas, and waited while he attended to a child with a cold. How stupidly polite I was. When Chris came out and saw me waiting, he put a stethoscope to my chest and immediately announced that I was in congestive heart failure. He then wheeled me to the emergency room himself. I remember very little except being super scared as they cut my clothes off. Risa told me that the doctors were pessimistic about my survival after looking at my arteries. A cardiologist from Pakistan named Mohammed Akbar was available in the hospital, and he volunteered to try to place a stent in my blocked LAD coronary artery. He succeeded, which bought time to do a quadruple bypass surgery after my body could strengthen for three days.
I remember virtually nothing from those three terrible days, but for Risa they were probably the most moving of her life, and I have relived them vicariously through her stories. My children dropped everything and rushed to her side. Friends and family flew and drove in from everywhere. Camp was set up in the waiting room with air mattresses. It was Friday night, so the Jewish Sabbath blessings were said in the Catholic hospital waiting room over candles and brought in pizza. Everybody held on to one another, praying for good news. Several doctor friends arrived to ask questions and translate medical language to the rest of the group. The ICU nurses at first regarded the amassing family members with reservation, but then embraced them. For three days, I had a breathing tube along with a million monitors and tethers, so I tried to sleep as I hoped for a successful surgery after the Labor Day holiday.
16 days later, I left the hospital with Risa and we drove home. Not a day has gone by when I didn’t think about those tumultuous days. After two years, for me every day is gravy.