[Editor’s Note: A week ago I met Steve and his brother Erwin for lunch. Instead of heading home the next morning, it turns out Steve collapsed at a farewell dinner that night. Fortunately, Steve is back to writing and able to tell all of us what happened.]
By Steve Vertlieb: Sooooooooo, I’ve been back from my vacation in Los Angeles for about a week, but have posted very little since my return … and there is a reason for my silence. My trip was decidedly a mixed bag of disappointments and delights … the latter category encompassing delicious encounters with Nick Meyer, Lee and Elisa Holdridge, Mark McKenzie, Pat and Shirley Russ, Les and Ania Zador, Gregg Nestor, Mike Glyer, and Paul Day Clemens.
I was feeling frail and somewhat fragile in the blazing 105 degree California sun, but still feeling relatively fine by the last day of the trip on Wednesday, September 8th. We were planning on getting together with some friends in the early evening for a farewell dinner celebration.
By three in the afternoon I began experiencing a crushing, near totally debilitating sense of deep, hopeless despair and depression. I was perspiring profusely, and suffering both hot and cold sweats. Our dinner wasn’t until six in the evening, and return flight home not until six o’clock the following morning, and so I continued with my plans for that evening.
By the time that we arrived at Micelli’s Italian Restaurant in Studio City, I had rallied somewhat and was feeling better. The air conditioning at the restaurant had broken down, and so the sweltering heat from outside began permeating the dining area within the restaurant. I began feeling light headed, and had difficulty focusing on the conversation of our friends. It soon became difficult to speak, and I merely stared at my dinner, unable to lift my fork. My companions were speaking to me, but I found myself unable to concentrate on the conversation or respond to it. One of my friends became alarmed and said that “there’s something wrong with Steve.”
Before I realized it, tables and chairs were being moved and I felt the hands of paramedics lifting me to the floor of the restaurant. Les was attempting to perform CPR on me, and I was drifting off into unconciousness. I awoke to find myself in an ambulance with assorted paramedics pounding my chest, while attempting to verbally communicate with me. I was aware of their presence, but found myself unable to speak.
I was wheeled into a section of the hospital emergency room and given a bed. For the next four or five hours, I was probed, prodded, given injections, and a Cat Scan. By this time I had become aware of my surroundings and was conversing with my brother Erwin who was the only visitor permitted to stay with me. I must have begun recuperating because I starting assaulting Erwin with a persistent barrage of bad jokes and dreadful one liners.
While no definitive diagnosis was offered by my doctors, the assumption was that my collapse was caused by a variety of possible precipitating causes. These may have included severe heat stroke, anxiety over my lack of rest and impending early morning departure from California, as well as a potentially severe seizure.
I was forced to delay my return home to Philadelphia by twenty four hours and, at the insistence of my adoring brother Erwin, Shelly and I were accompanied home by cherished sibling. Erwin stayed with me here at my apartment for nearly a week in order to make certain that I had indeed returned to normal. His caring and concern for me remains deeply moving. He returned home to Los Angeles, and to his own life, early this morning.
In the week since my attack, I have felt significantly weakened and more than a little fragile. I have had little energy either to check my e-mail or post here on Facebook. I must schedule a follow up appointment with my neurologist shortly. I’m feeling better now and more myself physically. However, I continue to feel the threat of yet another deep, debilitating depression lurking ever menacingly in the deeper recesses, and proverbial shadows of my mind. It’s as though I were Henry Jekyll, fearing a final and total consumption of reason by Edward Hyde. I’m fighting this sense of encroaching hopelessness and poverty of joy as best I can … but I cannot help feeling that, should this despair grasp my heart once more, I’ll become lost to an emotionally vegetative existence. I feel like I’m walking a tightrope.
As a result of the emotional toll of my five weeks of hospitalization this year, I’ve begun bi-weekly telephone consultations with a psychologist. This week’s session was particularly meaningful.
I hope you feel better soon.
Wow, Steve, very scary. My own multiple cardiac events this year have me projecting that you had heart trouble, but that’s not what they seem to be concerned about. I hope things straighten out.
Have you discussed with your psychologist a phone number to call if the waves of despair roll in? There are 24/7 800 numbers. If the despair does hit, the motivation to call may be lacking, but if you prepare for it, that may help.
I’m glad Steve is such a popular guy, with alert and caring friends. And he has a great brother.
Depression is very common in people who have had health problems. Your brain is telling you, slow down, no wrestling saber-tooth tigers today. Getting treatment helps.