Two years ago, at 82, Richard was working in his office when he started experiencing chest pain. Having had previous heart issues decades before that required surgery, Richard was well aware that the pain spelled trouble. He asked one of his colleagues to call an ambulance, and to alert his wife, Lory. Soon after being loaded onto the ambulance, he blacked out. Lory said she is so grateful they took him to Lenox Hill Heart & Lung and into the care of cardiothoracic surgeons Derek Brinster, MD, and Jonathan Hemli, MD. “That turned out to be very, very lucky for him,” she said.
First, Richard was cared for in Lenox Hill’s emergency department. There, Dr. Hemli explained to the Gitters that Richard was experiencing an aortic dissection, a tear of the heart’s main artery that often proves fatal.
“My heart was solid and good,” Richard said. “It was the plumbing around it that was having problems, apparently.”
Dr. Hemli told Lory that Richard would need immediate surgery to repair the aorta. Lory said he took the time, even in the emergency department setting, to talk her through the procedure and answer every one of her questions.
“He was very calm and very forthright,” she said. “He even drew me pictures of what they would do in the operating room.”
During an eight-hour procedure, the surgeons repaired Richard’s aortic arch. He was then transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to recuperate, where he continued to receive the highest quality care, according to Lory.
“Everyone we met at Lenox Hill was professional, encouraging and very kind. They were compassionate but didn’t try to sugarcoat the situation,” she said. “Most importantly, they took exceptional care of Richard—because of their expertise, Dr. Brinster and Dr. Hemli were able to successfully treat him, despite his age and previous heart condition.”
Nearly two years after the procedure, Richard is back on his feet, back to being busy—and back in his real estate office. Even after his surgery, retirement is still not on the table. He works a few days a week and makes sure there is always time for friends, family and New York City cultural activities.
“We have a home in Vermont that we like to go to,” Lory said. “We go back and forth quite a bit.”
“Though my skiing days are over!” Richard interrupted.