Bernie Madoff Was My Health Consultant

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Posted 28 Jan 2013 in Uncategorized

In an earlier blog, I wrote about how I worked and played through life with a false belief that my overall health was good. That attitude of overconfidence came crashing down when my cardiologist diagnosed me with heart blockages, and said that I needed to have heart-bypass surgery. The followup to that statement came swiftly, when a vascular surgeon contacted me and said, “I’ll be operating on you Tuesday, 8 a.m.” I didn’t have a chance to reply, as the doctor’s statement was emphatic and left no room to dispute. As it turned out, Dr. T. and his surgical team operated, and successfully completed, the quadruple-bypass surgery. The hurt from the operation didn’t slow my thinking. As I recovered in an ICU unit, I was surrounded by my family who showed great concern, along with encouraging words, that I had to get better to watch the grandchildren grow up.

I knew what my marching orders were. I knew my family was counting on me to make a strong effort to recover. I knew the surgery and the subsequent road to recovery would allow me a return to a happy life, a family life, a life of normalcy, with no chest pains, no shortness of breath, and no heaving as I walked up a flight of stairs. I would have low cholesterol and no other symptoms, no nothing, the same symptoms I had before surgery. I had a serious illness, and I felt lucky to be awake. What I needed was a new definition of what good health meant, a societal norm, and how to measure it. In the heart recovery section of the hospital, I felt better each passing day. My awareness was greater. The TV screen looked clearer. But that definition was too abstract.

Betterment was changed and measured by reading the strength of my blowing into a breathing apparatus. I could record my numbers each day and compare them to readings from earlier days. It was scientific. It was the best I could do to measure my progress. But I wondered how doctors measured betterment. I concluded they measured information with sophisticated instruments, which was more than I could comprehend. At least under my method, I could wrap my arms around my breathing apparatus. It was something.

I wasn’t finished searching for betterment. Blowing higher numbers was good, but not the finish line. My mind compelled me to step up to the plate and seek out how to keep my good news going. In the hospital, I had plenty of time to reflect.

One day, I heard someone enter my room and I turned my head. My visitor was Bernie Madoff. His picture appeared so many times on Internet and TV news, I recognized him immediately, right down to the hair on his nape curling up over the back of the baseball cap he wore. I was startled. Somehow, instinctively, he realized I knew who he was and gave no introduction. How he got out of jail and landed in Beaumont Hospital to wander the cardiac care unit was a mystery. Something told me to calm down, keep my mouth shut, and listen. He brought a chair along side my bed, sat down, and said, “Leonard, I understand you’re going home tomorrow. I hope you understand your long term care will be up to you. You’ll have to make every effort to stay healthy. A plan and your undivided attention to it will be a good start. Taking medication is important. The doctors will be the police should something go wrong. But, you and only you must make sure the pills are swallowed.

“Those schmucks who invested with me did nothing to protect themselves, before and after they handed me a check. They thought paid attorneys and accountants would cover their behinds. That thinking was foolish and childish. And worse yet, the professionals were fast asleep. The investors had no one to blame but themselves. If they did their homework and watched what I was doing, the results would have been different. Their money would still be in the bank. I’m not here to give you any lessons on investing money. I came to tell you the same basic principles that apply for investing apply for healthcare. Watch yourself. Don’t fall asleep.”

The room went silent. There was nothing further to say.

He stood and put the chair back. As he left the room, I said, “Thanks, Bernie”.

A nurse entered the room to take my vitals. “Mr. B., you have a broad smile.”

I told her I had visitor. “His name was Dr. M. He gave me some sound advice. Did you see him? He just left.” The nurse shook her head.

I laid back on my pillow. Bernie made complete sense. I wondered how he could be portrayed as such a bad guy. He helped me. Five minutes, that’s all it took for him to point me in the right direction. He woke me up to a new way to think forward. And I planned to give him credit for the advice, every day going forward. I intended to follow his suggestions. The choices under my power became real. They consisted of keeping my weight down, eating the proper food, taking my medication on time, and exercising. My EKG numbers were in the medical Hall of Fame, and I intended to keep them there. No beer belly gut was planned for the prevention of breaking my nose, on the day I had a heart attack and fell on the floor. Take my advice. I heard it first from the “bad boy.”

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