The room where it happened

Did I feel relief? Shock? Fear? Actually, I don’t think I gave a thought to how I felt beyond “holy shit!” From the moment I learned they had a heart for me on Saturday afternoon, October 10, it was more than 24 hours before they finally wheeled me into the operating room at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Those first few hours on Saturday were frenetic. For starters, I’d been living in the hospital for four months, so I had all sorts of stuff in my room: an electric kettle, coffee, a drawer full of snacks, books, magazines, my guitar, my…


Most people who’ve spent more than a few nights in the hospital are familiar with the crushing weight of insomnia. I had sleeping issues before I was admitted. Now, halfway into my fourth month here, I’m as likely to be awake at 3 a.m., as I am to be asleep. Which is to say, what I call a decent night’s sleep nowadays is a few uninterrupted hours between 2:00— 6:00 a.m., when they wake me for meds, blood draw, etc. If I’m able to fall back to sleep, I might manage an hour of light sleep between 7:00 — 9:00…


I went outside the other day for the first time in 82 days. “You might want to bring a jacket, it’s in the low sixties,” noted the young resident who was there to escort me downstairs, across Ft. Washington Ave., and into the garden I’ve been staring at since they moved me out of the CCU (thus depriving me of my river view). “I don’t have a jacket,” I said. It was obscenely hot when I was admitted, back in June. “And besides, it’s always the same temperature in here. I wouldn’t mind being cold.”

It was a glorious September…


Another day, another shitshow.

Every day, it’s some new, shitty thing. Today, my roommate, Mr. Billings, is having a conversation with one of his several personalities. His voice is soft and sad. He sounds aggrieved. “Why are you always so mean to me. You are just nasty.”

The personality berating him speaks in a staccato style, firing insults at the injured Mr. Billings. “You’re a faggot. That’s why she left you. You suck dicks” says the personality.

“I don’t” says Mr. Billings in his soft, injured semi-whisper. “I’m not no gaylord or whatever. I loved her very much. I loved her. I still love…


So, it turns out that my defribrillator is the tortise. The heart I need is the hare. My defibrillator chugged along, slow and steady, for ten years, and finally won the damn race. When I was first admitted, I had a conversation with one of the senior heart failure docs I really like. He said, “Oh, I think you’ll likely get a heart before the defibrillator runs out of juice.” However, the heart I need, to further belabor this already strained metaphor , sprinted, stopped, and screwed around, without crossing the finish line.

Last week, one of the cardiac residents…


Look Ma, I’m bionic.

It’s been a little more than a month since I was admitted to NYP Columbia to wait for a new heart. It’s a little more than ten years since I got the ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) that has kept me from expiring (a weird way to say dying), on multiple occasions. Having the ICD is paradoxical. On the one hand, I’d be dead without it. On the other hand, I’ve lived in fear of getting shocked by it every day since it was implanted.

My ICD has about two months of battery life remaining, so now it’s a race to…


Study for a Head, Francis Bacon 1952

“I WANT YOU TO CALL MY WIFE. I AM NOT STAYING HERE ANOTHER NIGHT. I AM NOT STAYING. BRING ME THE PHONE SO I CAN CALL MY WIFE.”

Most days on the CCU pass quietly, with some semblence of routine. I’m awakened by the phlebotomist, usually around 5:00. I’ve been able to work remotely from the hospital, so that keeps me busy until my COVID mandated one daily visitor arrives, usually around 12:00. My vistor leaves at 3:00 and I work for a few more hours. Dinner arrives roughly at 5:30. …


I’m currently sitting on the bed in my room at NYP Columbia, looking out at the Hudson River on the 4th of July. Things, transplant-wise, have accelerated rather quickly and I’m now being treated on an inpatient basis while I wait for a new heart. So room 546 on the Cardiac Care Unit is my new home for the forseeable future. More details on that in a later edition, though.

In my last installment, you may recall, I dug through my attic and, eventually, found a copy of a personal essay I wrote at the time of my initial diagnosis…


Last night, I went up to the attic and explored that corner where Laura and I keep some folders in dusty document boxes. They hold the artifacts of our earlier lives, and they’re buried behind the Christmas decorations, luggage, piles of the kids’ old clothes, and loads of books.

I was looking for two things; my medical records from the night I was admitted, and a “personal essay” about the night and days I spent in the hospital following my diagnosis. The records could tell me exactly, at least in a physiological sense, what happened the night I was diagnosed…


I remember it was 1994 or 1995. I remember that it was hot. Like really, really hot. Heat wave hot. Do I remember hearing something about heat stroke killing record numbers of turkeys or chickens or some kind of commercial fowl on Iowa farms? I remember playing basketball outdoors in that heat. I remember we had a regular game on a nice outdoor court that (maybe) was on a hill with a view of the Iowa River. I wasn’t sure I wanted to play that day because it was so hot. That, I definitely remember.

I remember a bright, sunny…

Andrew Heyman

I’m a lawyer with a brand new heart. My old one was busted.

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