Community Voices

‘Go to the doctor now’ is advice of Kendall heart disease patient who nearly died

Daughters Dara Rosenberg Smith and Rachel Rosenberg O’Connor and their dad Michael Rosenberg want to spread the word about self-awareness, especially when it comes to heart health.
Daughters Dara Rosenberg Smith and Rachel Rosenberg O’Connor and their dad Michael Rosenberg want to spread the word about self-awareness, especially when it comes to heart health. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Michael Rosenberg of Kendall felt invincible.

“I always had a fear of doctors and that fear was based on a doctor examining me and telling me something might be wrong. I just wouldn’t be able to bear that, and my health was so good that I was very careless in seeing doctors on a regular basis,” he said in email. “That philosophy almost led to a life-crashing end for me. Or, perhaps, a stronger way of saying it: I almost died because of my stupidity.”

Rosenberg, 64, is now sharing his story with as many people as he can. “Hopefully, the message will bring about more self awareness to what we do in our daily lives, and how we have but one body to take care of,” he said.

His health issues started about 10 months ago when he noticed that he couldn’t walk as far as he used to without feeling a tightness on both sides of his upper back.

“I would simply need to sit for a short period and everything would return to normal. As the weeks went by, the time between episodes happened more quickly,” he said.

He never smoked or drank alcohol, but he did eat anything he felt like and that, he said, was his biggest mistake.

Rosenberg, a musician and president of his company, Imagine Your Photos, hid all his symptoms. He even stopped carpooling so he wouldn’t have to walk with someone to a meeting from a parking garage. He didn’t want anyone to see how many stops he had to make.

He said he kept hoping “the thing” would cure itself until finally he went to a doctor.

“My family physician discovered an ‘abnormality’ on my EKG. Apparently, it was a small or silent heart attack that could have happened years ago, unbeknownst to me. She recommended that I see a cardiologist,” he said.

But he resisted and didn’t go for almost six weeks. Rosenberg said he hoped the new blood pressure medicine would solve the problem. It didn’t.

“I was a nervous wreck when I went to see the cardiologist, Dr. Dean Heller. He took another EKG and, just from talking to me, could tell that there was probably some blockage in my arteries. He suggested a cardiac catheter test to determine if this was true and to find the severity of the blockage,” he said.

But Rosenberg was getting ready to travel to meet family in New York. Even though he was told he needed to get further tests he took a 31-hour Amtrak train ride, by himself.

“I told the doctor that I didn’t want to ruin this trip for everyone and asked if we could schedule the test for when I came back. He wasn’t really happy about that, but I was very insistent. He just told me to be extremely careful,” he said. “I took the trip and it was so tough.”

He said it was a miracle that he made it home and on Jan. 6 he checked into Baptist Hospital for the test, and the bad news.

“I would need a triple bypass. One artery was 100 percent blocked. The second one was 90 percent blocked and the third was 80 percent blocked. The next step was scheduling bypass surgery,” he said. Even at that point, he tried to delay and wanted a second opinion.

“Dr. Heller sent Dr. Lisardo Garcia, the heart surgeon, to speak with me. He told me that my problem is so obvious that 100 heart surgeons would unanimously agree.”

After a seven-hour operation he was told everything had gone well. But 12 hours later there were complications and Rosenberg said he almost died during extensive resuscitation.

“Luckily, one shock got my heart back in rhythm. But something was clearly wrong,” he said.

Doctors put in three stents and that worked. Finally, he was on his way to recovery and he decided to share his story with everyone “with the hope that you’ll RUN to the doctor, and not away, when you have ANY concern related to your heart, or really any health issues. If I had done this sooner, a few stents would have fixed the problem. I did all of this to myself.”

Rosenberg said his issues are partly genetics but also his “terrible, horrible, pitiful, willingness to eat anything because of a belief that the fast foods, high fats, high calorie drinks wouldn’t bring me down. I never looked at a food label in my life,” he said.

Now, he is eating healthy and recovering. He’s even going to the gym “for the first time in my life and I read every label now when I shop for food.”

“I don’t know how successful I will be with this new life but I am going to try,” he said. “If these words can help someone seek help earlier, at least I will have accomplished some good from this mess I brought on myself.”

Help raise ALS awareness

Join Ken Hendel and sister Amy Hendel, owners of Gallery Art in Aventura, when they host a special event to honor their brother, Stu Hendel, who was recently diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“Art With a Heart” will be 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 30, at Gallery Art, 20633 Biscayne Blvd. in the Promenade Shops. There is a suggested minimum donation of $100 and all funds go to ALS Worldwide, a nonprofit organization that helps Stu Hendel and many like him around the world.

“Ken and I were devastated when we learned that our brother Stu was diagnosed with ALS. We want to do everything we can to show him and other people afflicted with this horrible illness as much support as possible,” Amy Hendel said.

ALS weakens and kills nerve cells that control voluntary muscle movement and eventually patients cannot move, speak, eat and breathe. Cruelly, the mind remains intact. Death can occur within two to five years but individuals are living longer because symptoms can be managed and treatments can help extend life.

ALS Worldwide is a global health organization that provides free assistance to people with ALS and their loved ones To learn more visit http://alsworldwide.org/.

The $100 donations will be accepted at the door. Checks of any amount and made out to ALS Worldwide can be mailed to Gallery Art, 20633 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura, FL 33180. You can call 305-932-6166 with questions.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at christinammayo@gmail.com.

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