Eleven Days In the Hospital: A Love Story

Now it can be told. I turned 65 in 2020, so I got Medicare (!) and a lovely United Healthcare AARP Mosaic® Medicare Supplement (!!!), all paid for by my SS. I thought that would be a great standby in case I ever needed med coverage. I never dreamed it would happen so quickly.

it all began two days after Christmas—December 27, 2020—when my lifelong best friend, Larry Pontillo, went downstairs for breakfast in his in-laws’ kitchen. According to his wife, Kathy, one moment Larry was standing in the kitchen, and the next moment he was lying in the kitchen: It was that fast. The EMTs arrived in minutes, but too late. My best friend of 50 years was gone.

Larry (left) and I in some Chinese restaurant somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard. Good times!

Then. on May 6, 2001, I quit smoking. (I smoked 2 packs a day since I was 14, and I’m now 68.) On that morning I picked up the usual pack of Vantage 100s from my desk, stared at it for a few minutes, and put it down again. “No smoking for one day,” I whispered. The next day I did it again. And the next. Soon I was smoke-free for 6 months—no drugs, no patches, no hypnotism, no nothin’. I fumigated my apartment and had it painted—twice! Yay, me. And of course, because Mother Nature can’t resist a good joke, I soon began to feel all the sharp symptoms of COPD and heart failure associated with smoking. But I had quit, I insisted. I’d dodged the bullet. How could I get sick NOW?!!


NYU Langone Medical Center, Location: New York, New York, Architect: Ennead


My condition slowly deteriorated throughout 2022 and 2023. I developed severe shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing like…like…well, like an a*****e who’d smoked too much all his life. By September 2023, I couldn’t walk more than a few yards on a sidewalk before i had to stop and catch my breath. Going to the supermarket became a long ordeal, and I had to pay the kids there to carry my grocery bags home for me. I began to see things that weren’t there, and I heard voices and sounds that weren’t real. I became confused, talking to myself and running into walls. I fell down a couple of times—once on the sidewalk near my building. Fortunately, my friends Lon and Joanna Blais noticed my odd behavior, and on Wednesday, November 16, they came to my place, bundled me into their car, and drove me to NYU-Langone Emergency Room.

My room at NYU-Langone, Room 1503 in the ICU. I was here for most of my stay until I was finally released to a “regular” room. Note the cityscape with the ESB in the background.

The people there took one look at me and admitted me, whisking me upstairs to the 15th floor ICU unit—the “heart floor”—where I learned a new term: “Atrial fibrillation.” “A-fib” for short. A procedure was scheduled for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, and another new term: “cardioconversion.” They sent a tiny camera down my throat to make sure there weren’t any blood clots in my left ventricle, and then they administered a massive electric shock (eyewitnesses said I levitated about 1 foot above the bed). My heartbeat returned to normal for the first time in a long time. I spent 11 days there, being pampered and drugged and tested and tested and tested some more. I came home last Sunday, November 26, and here I am, grateful for all those wonderful surgeons and nurses, and grateful to be alive. A few weeks of in-home physical therapy and a rigorous diet should only improve things even more. I feel much better, and I thank everyone for their concern.

Room 1522, the “regular” room outside the ICU where I ended my stay. This room has a panoramic view of the East River.

Happy Holidays!


2 thoughts on “Eleven Days In the Hospital: A Love Story

  1. Glad to hear you’re doing well. Here’s a cautionary tale from a fellow traveler.

    A routine checkup in 2016 found aFib. Cardioversion didn’t work, so an ablation was done, and it worked. Held for 6 years, during which time my exercise and diet, um, strayed from the recommended. Neither the follow-up cardioversion nor the subsequent ablation took this time. I’ve never felt any symptom, but my watch tells the tale of an erratic heartbeat that periodically strays into aFib.

    To sum up: Exercise and diet are paramount. Walking at least 30 minutes daily regardless of weather is the baseline. Self-care is the best care.

    • Larry Rosenthal!!! Blast from the past! Thank you for your words of wisdom. I’m a bit shaky—I might have to go back to NYU-Langone Medical Center again—Ugh! I’ll keep everyone informed. And please take good care of yourself. Let’s chat in the future.

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