Travel Maven

A Harrowing Health Experience Makes One Grateful to Be Alive

News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

We are part of The Trust Project

By Richard Levy
It’s like suspended reality. A couple of weeks ago my amazing, vibrant life was 100 percent normal. Then one night I was rudely awakened to chest pains that felt exactly like I was having an acid reflux attack.

The pains started to accelerate until they felt like a gorilla’s foot pushing down on my chest. It was unbearable. I called 911 and a fabulous EMS team arrived very quickly and effectively sprang into action. They placed me in an ambulance, hooked me up to a saline drip, sprayed nitroglycerin behind my tongue and, most importantly, calmed me down.

They emphatically suggested we go only to Westchester Medical Center where Westchester’s best cardio care unit is located along with the foremost heart surgeons.

My echocardiogram revealed I had severe blockage in my arteries and that the right side of my heart was not moving. They made a decision to put stents into my arteries to open them up, but once the procedure started, they aborted the mission because they decided stents would not effectively open the blockage.

The decision was then made to perform a triple bypass on July 5 at 7 a.m.
As you can imagine, I was scared to death at the prospect of having my chest “butterflied” and “chest bone broken.” My surgeon has performed this “routine” surgery successfully many times. But I kept on visualizing myself lying on the operating table with chest sprawled open and heart exposed.

Beforehand, everyone kept saying my bypass surgery would “be very easy.” All that my surgeon had to do was replace my three clogged arteries with veins grafted from my legs. Yeah, a “piece of cake” as they say.

Everyone kept telling me this procedure is typically 99 percent successful, but despite this fact, I was still terrified.

My recovery will not be easy, fast or without lots of discomfort. But I looked forward to that magic moment of waking up after surgery, knowing I had survived the procedure.

I am so thrilled to be alive. After all, right now I have so much to live for. My life these days is beyond wonderful. I’m so very lucky to have my amazing girlfriend, Anita, my two boys, Spencer and Morgan, and all my caring friends.

Besides writing a periodic travel column in The Examiner, “The Travel Maven,” I’m also an inventor of revolutionary new products. People keep asking me how I come up with all of my unique inventions, so I modestly tell them, “I can see what’s not there.”

Perhaps unlike many folks who go through this procedure, I didn’t pray that all will go well because I don’t believe praying has ever helped change my situation. As a kid, when I learned about the Holocaust, I asked my parents, “Where was God?”

As you can imagine, I’m looking forward to writing my “survival column,” and of course, looking forward to taking my next trip.

Editor’s note: Richard Levy continues to recuperate from last week’s open heart surgery and is expected to be transferred for a rehab stint this week.

Hastings-on-Hudson resident Richard Levy is a former advertising “Mad Man” creative director and now a travel writer. He’s also an inventor of innovative new products and is writing and illustrating a new children’s book. You can contact him at


We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.