Community Voices

Man’s near-death experience sends him fighting for others’ heart health

Michael Rosenberg is flanked by daughters Dara Rosenberg Smith and Rachel Rosenberg O'Connor. The Rosenbergs want to spread the word about heart health.
Michael Rosenberg is flanked by daughters Dara Rosenberg Smith and Rachel Rosenberg O'Connor. The Rosenbergs want to spread the word about heart health. Miami Herald File

Earlier this year, I got a letter from a man recovering from triple bypass surgery. In the letter, he told of how he nearly died. I put the letter aside, promising myself to call the gentleman later for an interview. I wanted to know if his near-death experience brought about any spiritual awakenings. Days ... weeks ... and months passed and I still hadn’t called him.

Recently, I ran across his letter and read it again and saw it as a life-saving message to others — myself included. And I called him.

Michael Rosenberg, in his own words, had never had any surgeries or major illnesses. “If I caught a cold, or felt an ache or pain, it would always go away. People would ask me, ‘Do you ever get sick?’ I felt invincible.”

Yet, Rosenberg, who said he has never smoked or drank, said he had always had a fear of doctors, of them examining him and telling him something might be wrong. “I just wouldn’t be able to bear that,” he said. In fact, Rosenberg felt his health was so good he became very careless in seeing doctors on a regular basis. “I almost died because of my stupidity,” he said.

Bea Hines.JPG
Bea L. Hines

Then, one day around March 2016, life caught up with Rosenberg. He started noticing that he couldn’t walk as far as he used to without feeling a tightness on both sides of his upper back. When that happened, he would sit and rest for a while and everything would return to normal — or so he thought. Weeks passed and the time between episodes happened more often. Soon, he realized that he could barely walk five minutes without needing a break.

A community activist, Rosenberg spent a lot of time going to meetings, making speeches and sometimes performing piano in concert. So, he hid his condition from his family and friends. He even stopped carpooling so he wouldn’t have to walk with someone to a meeting from a parking garage. “I didn’t want them to see me making so many stops. ... I always had this vision of me collapsing in front of them.”

As he got worse, Rosenberg said that sometimes just taking things out to the car would leave him exhausted and he would have to wait a while before driving off. One day, he finally realized that something was terribly wrong and went to the doctor. An “abnormality” was discovered on his EKG, probably caused by a small or silent heart attack that could have happened years ago, unbeknownst to him.

Still, when his doctor advised him to see a cardiologist, Rosenberg said he resisted and didn’t go for almost six weeks. “I was hoping the blood pressure medicine I was given would solve the problem. It didn’t.”

When he did see the cardiologist, and after more tests, Rosenberg learned that one artery was 100 percent blocked; a second artery was 90 percent blocked and the third was 80 percent blocked. He would need a triple bypass. But even with that news, Rosenberg said he tried to delay the surgery, saying he wanted a second opinion. The heart surgeon told him that his problem was “so obvious, that 100 heart surgeons would unanimously agree” that he needed the surgery.

On the morning of the surgery, Rosenberg said he was ready. “There was no fear. I just wanted to get it done.”

The surgery “went fine,” Rosenberg was told. But 12 hours later, at 3 a.m., Rosenberg went “Code Blue” while he was in a deep sleep. After medical staff resuscitated him, Rosenberg was told the surgery had not gone as perfectly as they first thought, and that he would need more surgery. The doctors were able to fix the problem with three stents.

That was eight months ago and today Rosenberg, 65, said, “I’m doing terrific. It’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m getting ready to go to the gym. Not so great at changing my diet, by I’m working on that.”

Rosenberg is Jewish, but not religious. I asked him if facing possible death and bouncing back changed his life spiritually.

“It hasn’t changed my life spiritually, but it gave me a sense of urgency to want to do more and do it faster,” he said. “I’m fighting harder for things that matter.”

For instance, Rosenberg said he is “fighting” to get a PTA started at Dunbar Elementary School in Overtown, where his daughter taught for three years. Recently, two of her former students were killed due to gun violence.

He also had done a police ride-along through the Northside area. Outside a crack house with a lot of junk out front, he took a picture of the house and sent it to Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson. Now, the house is scheduled to be taken down this month.

“I believe in giving to my community. I believe I can communicate well with anybody. This is the way I can do what God would want me to do. You don’t have to be in a house of worship to do good. I love being in the street, touching lives. I just do it,” said Rosenberg, who can be reached at 305-439-3571.

Women’s Day conference

The historic Ebenezer United Methodist Church will host its annual Women’s Empowerment Conference Aug. 11-13 at the church, 2001 NW 35th St. The theme: “Women Empowered for the Transformation of the World.”

The three-day conference will include a ministers circle panel discussion, a gospel concert, and workshops designed for adults and children, facilitated by nationally known women of God.

Workshops will include topics related to spiritual growth and development; leadership, and abundant and transformational living. The conference will culminate with an old-fashioned Women’s Day celebration.

The three-day cost is $50 for adults, $10 for youths and includes all conference events, materials, and meals. The per-day cost is $25. Registration begins at 6 p.m. on Aug. 11. The Rev. Carrill S. Munnings Sr. is the pastor.

Call E. Toni Mountain at 786-295-8764, or the church office at 305-635-7413 for more information.

A positive difference

The Universal Truth Center for Better Living, 21310 NW 37th Ave. in Miami Gardens, invites the community to worship 10 a.m. Sunday when the Rev. Charles Taylor will begin a new lesson with the theme “Making a Positive Difference with Boldness.”

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