Michael Rosenberg, 65, says he had a fear of doctors since he was a boy, and put off getting regular checkups for several years. He was fortunate enough not to have any health scares — that is until about March 2016 when he started noticing that he couldn’t walk very far without feeling a tightness on both sides of his upper back.
Begrudgingly, he visited his primary care doctor who referred him to Dean Heller, M.D.,  a cardiologist with Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute . “My family doctor discovered an ‘abnormality’ on my EKG,” recalls Mr. Rosenberg.
Dr. Heller undertook another EKG suspecting that Mr. Rosenberg had severe blockages in his arteries.
“This is a good example of how important regular checkups are and how screening EKGs can detect heart issues from the past,” says Dr. Heller. The EKG, or electrocardiogram, records a heart’s electrical activity. It can also reveal the possibility of a “silent heart attack” – as in the case of Mr. Rosenberg — which produced little to no symptoms but caused damage or scarring to the heart muscles.
(The Baptist Health News Team hears from heart patient. Michael Rosenberg, about his life-changing experience. Video by Steve Pipho)
After Dr. Heller performed more tests, Mr. 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. Even after such sobering news, Mr. Rosenberg said he tried to delay the surgery, suggesting he wanted a second opinion. But he relented and had the surgery.
“I had not had any health issue until this incident,” recalls Mr. Rosenberg, 65. “I did not go to the doctor for 20 years. From childhood, I had a fear of going to the doctor. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people like me who are not listening to their bodies.”
However, Mr. Rosenberg’s journey to recovery would not be easy. About 12 hours after his surgery, at 3 a.m., Rosenberg went into “code blue” – or cardiac arrest — while still sedated. After medical staff resuscitated him, Rosenberg underwent more surgery to fix the problem and he required three stents.
Mr. Rosenberg would later be told what happened to him in the Intensive Care Unit. A “code blue,” as most people know it from watching hospital dramas on TV, alerts medical staff that a patient is in cardiopulmonary arrest and needs to be resuscitated.
“There was one nurse, Jose,” Mr. Rosenberg would later learn. “He immediately ran in and started doing CPR. In the meantime, they’re calling other people and giving me shots and doing whatever they do. Then they brought in the electric paddles… I was totally dependent on other people to save my life.”
Jose Castro was the first ‘code blue’ responder to apply CPR on Mr. Rosenberg following his triple-bypass surgery. Mr. Castro and Mr. Rosenberg had an informal reunion recently.
Mr. Castro says his reunion with Mr. Rosenberg is a reminder of why he looks forward to long and busy night shifts at Baptist Hospital’s ICU, where he’s worked as an advanced registered nurse for eight years. “It’s satisfying because most of the time you don’t see the patients that you take care of, especially working at night,” he says.
Mr. Rosenberg says he spends much of his time lately telling people not to make the same mistake he made by ignoring their health.
“I have been encouraging people to see their doctor and listen to their bodies,” he says.