How I dodged a bullet, and got a second chance at everything
At the onset, I have to tell you exactly what this blog article is about, since it is long and self-indulgent. In short, I had an acute myocardial infarction on the first day of my trip to Italy, July 21st. I spent 8 days in the hospital in Como, Italy – 3 days in ICU, and then 5 days in the general ward of the cardio wing. We flew back home on July 31st. The cardiologist said I will bounce back from this, relatively unscathed. I dodged a bullet!
Hopefully the story is told with some humor and with enough narrative appeal to be of interest to everyone. Oh, and at the end of this, I give myself and any other photographer who is neglectful of their health, an urgent lecture to take better care of diet and exercise. Be ready for that.
This heart attack was self-inflicted through lack of exercise, and less-than-diligent care of my diet. In my opinion, this was mostly lack of exercise – that sedentary lifestyle that we photographers tend to have, stuck in front of the computer with deadlines that have to be met. Add a touch of laziness, and some stress eating, and you have a recipe for health issues – including a heart attack. There were markers along the way that I should have heeded with greater attention.
The photo above shows part of one of the two large noticeboards in the cardio wing of the hospital I stayed in – Ospedale Sant’Anna – filled with notes from patients and family members, thanking the staff of the hospital for saving their lives. They most certainly saved mine, and gave me a second chance at life.
That’s the summary. Here are the details …
A really tight margin
We were in Italy for 10 days for a vacation by invitation of a friend, Lilia. We were in the the scenic area north of Milan – the Lake Como district. Just beautiful. That Friday, the first day on vacation, was very eventful with me ending up in the cardiac unit of a hospital. The photo above was my view of Italy for 80% of the time there – the ceiling of a hospital room.
First I have to the explain the intricate route we took to get to the hospital. It started with me feeling the symptoms of the myocardial infarction two nights before, while still back home. A burning pain behind my sternum which somewhat felt like bad indigestion. It didn’t strike me as “hey, this is a heart attack happening”, because I was struggling with some side-effects of other medication I was taking a week earlier, and I thought this was more of the same. The pain subsided, and I felt normal and pain-free on the Wednesday and Thursday before we flew out. That Friday in Italy I felt fine too … until the evening.
Then, crouched on the bathroom floor of the apartment, vomiting, and in serious pain, I told Sara we need to get to the hospital. The pain was intense and out of control. But somehow I never quite realized that these are symptoms of a heart attack!
This is where the odds of survival become even tighter. Sara pulled the car around for me, and while she drove, I texted Lilia that I needed the address of a hospital local to Como. Since she didn’t immediately respond, I Googled hospitals in the area. I picked one, and had to enter the address into the Italian-language GPS. The syntax of the GPS (a TomTom), was also something I wasn’t used to. Sara followed the GPS directions I had typed in. The roads were even more twisty in a spaghetti-bowl way than the roads in New Jersey … and that’s saying something! We made a wrong turn somewhere and even hit the Switzerland border, and then had to turn around and pick up the route again to the unknown hospital … and then Lilia texted me the address of the hospital we should go to – Ospedale Sant’Anna. Now keep in mind that I am texting and entering addresses on the GPS while literally slowly dying of a heart attack. We also had to stop several so that I could vomit. All of these things add up to delay after delay, making my eventual survival an even tighter margin. It took us at least an hour to get to the emergency room!
I walked into the Emergency Room at the hospital and went up to the window. There was someone ahead of me. So I waited … but then turned to everyone sitting there, and asked if anyone spoke English. Blank looks. Nothing. I turned around and went back to the window. But then someone brought a young girl to me, and she said she spoke some English. I simply asked if I was in the right place, and she said yes. I would hate to have waited at the wrong window at the wrong place.
The guy behind the window must have seen I was in distress, and called me around. I sat in the wheelchair while he took my details and quickly checked me over … and then a minute or two later, they wheeled me away into the hospital for a cardiogram and a more through checkup.
So many delays, but I was still here!
As funny as a heart attack
Perhaps it is just my dark sense of humor, but some of this was humorous, even while I was in great pain. The funny stuff: it was really-funny to watch the two nurses flip my balls from one side to the other, to shave my groin in preparation for surgery. (In the end they went through a radial artery in my wrist.) It was maybe-funny that they put an adult diaper on me.
It was perhaps only slightly-funny that I used a Translator app on my iPhone to communicate with the Italian doctors and nurses. But it was distinctly not-funny when I read the cardiologist’s message that I’m having a myocardial infarction. That’s when it actually hit me for the first time what was really happening to me. The burning pain behind my sternum, and the difficulty breathing – it all added up. A heart attack.
The cardiologist checked the printout of the cardiogram, tore it off, and nodded his head to the nurse to indicate they should wheel me away. They rushed me down the hallways to the operating room for a balloon & stent procedure. The pain was ever-increasing to an unbearable level.
A serious observation – I’m not afraid of death. I realized it again that night. I just don’t want the pain involved with it. The pain was so intense, that I would’ve been okay with flipping a switch, cutting it all short. But that didn’t happen.
The balloon & stent procedure brought immediate relief. It was really strange being awake through all of this. The team of doctors and nurses were efficient and calm. The surgeon who did the procedure, has a really nice bedside manner, talking to me throughout the operation.
That Saturday morning after the operation, the cardiologist told me that I will make a full recovery. (phew!)
Another one of the funnier moments was a few days later when a nurse patted me on my stomach and said “cicciotto”. I had to look it up … roly-poly. Apparently I was now well enough that she could make fun of me.
With nothing more to do in the hospital bed than just breathe – that oxygen supply is subliminal but really nice – I had a lot of time to reflect. Where I am and where I want to be, on every level of my life. On the second day in ICU, when Sara left after visiting me in my hospital room, and I had just spoken to J9 (our daughter) on the phone, I finally felt emotionally exhausted as well.
Listening to music through my AirPods, the song that came up first was “This is the day”, by The The (Youtube) … and the lyrics hit me hard and the momentousness of the past few days kicked in. I was quietly in tears for the first time.
Well you didn’t wake up this morning ’cause you didn’t go to bed
You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red
The calendar on your wall was ticking the days off
You’ve been reading some old letters
You smile and think how much you’ve changed
All the money in the world couldn’t buy back those days
You pull back the curtain
And the sun burns into your eyes
You watch a plane flying
Across a clear blue sky
This is the day, your life will surely change
This is the day, when things fall into place
That feeling that my life had changed really struck me. I knew I had somehow been given a second chance. This truly is Part 2 of my life.
However there will have to be serious lifestyle changes when I got back home – better nutrition and more exercise.
And about 7 years ago, I had my gall bladder removed through three tiny incisions in my stomach area – I went home the same day.
The anti-science, alt-health websites just piss me off most days. The medical technology we have now is incomprehensibly amazing … and will progress even further.
I mean, they fixed my heart through a tiny hole in my wrist! Wow!
New goals for when I get home again – work on becoming more fit again. My diet will also have to change drastically. I’ve been forbidden any Coke by both my wife and the cardiologist and some persistent friends. I’m not that fond of deep-fried or oily foods. So that won’t take much adjustment. But I have an addiction to sugary, fizzy sodas. Eliminating Coke will be a tough one.
For the rest, it’s all sensible stuff really: eat real food, not too much, mostly plants. And exercise. Cicciotto no more!
If you are locked into that slowly destructive cycle of sitting in front of the computer, editing, and working with deadlines … with all the stresses of running a small business … and the accompanying bad diet, I really want you to strongly reconsider your options. A heart attack and other health issues are mostly avoidable through exercise and proper nutrition – it’s all in your control.
Take care of yourself! The alternative is no fun at all. Literally. No fun.
I do have this bicycle on rollers in the basement. It gets some use, but clearly not enough … from here on, daily, as soon as I am strong enough again. New Jersey has 6+ months of shitty weather. With the rollers I can just ride. I do 30 minutes on it at a time. Does get the blood flowing, for sure.
What is awesome about this bike – a German brand called Focus – is that it doesn’t have a greasy chain and derailleur. It has a belt and internal gear hub. Very clean.
There’s also no being lazy on this thing. With it being free-standing on the set of rollers – if you don’t concentrate on your cadence and balance, you come off it.
Except I did come off the bike a few weeks ago. I watch TV series and movies on it – and while watching a scene where they escape by driving the wrong direction on the highway, swerving oncoming traffic … I instinctively also swerved with them … and came off the track. Fortunately there is no forward momentum, so if you come off the tracks, you just stop. There is no hitting your basement wall at 25 mph. That would hurt.
I’m done with dying, time to start living
Me, eight days later, walking out of the hospital. I’ve mentioned a few times here that I truly feel like I was given a second chance at this – life! With it being such a close call against so many odds, and with the prognosis of a full recovery, I’m not taking this lightly.
I want more.
I want to create.
I want to experience.
Time to start living.
I also want to reach out to you – if you’re in (or visiting) the New York / New Jersey area, let’s hang out. Let’s have lunch. Let’s collaborate. Let’s do something. Let’s have fun. It need not be right now, but sometime in the next few months or even years. An open invitation.
Let’s do brilliant things, for time is all too short.
Edited to add: Thank you everyone for the overwhelming support here and via emails and phone calls. I really do appreciate it all.
103 Comments, Add Your Own
1Harald Kafitz says
First I have to thank you for everything I have learned on this blog for free!
Thanks for sharing this experience. I think I understood the slowly destructive cycle part. I wish you more than enough power to sustainably change these things in your life.
I’d like to share two things that helped me:
1st: Eating no sugar is actually easier than eating less sugar. Sounds strange but it is the truth. After 3 weeks you don’t need to eat very sweet things anymore because an apple tastes so sweet again…
2nd: Since we have a dog I make at least 10000 steps a day, no matter if it rains or snows. And it is really fun!
Think like this: It only takes a bout 3 hours a week out of 168 hours to exercise so you can stay healthy. Glad you are doing well!
2David Bruno says
Neil – I didn’t even read past the few first lines before coming right to the comment section to write something. I am so sorry to hear of this awful experience. I’m not going to ask any questions until I read your post. But I was really happy to see that great photo of you at the end. By the way, is the photographer that took the photo for hire? (hardy-har har).
3Johan Schmidt says
Hope you’re back again to full strength and health soon
Neil – Salute! Here to your health and happiness. I had a similar situation without all the pain and vomiting, but got a stent, a pacemaker, and a second chance. The passion and art of creating things (photography) was renewed, just prior to the 3 year assignment to Italy. I have appreciated very much your humor and gentle way of making the complex…simple.
5Robert Tate says
I have followed you for a long time. I have come to realise that self employed work is rewarding but hard work with long hours and rubbish food, is it rewarding enough to kick the bucket early in life? I’m not sure people change until something like this happens. Sadly people think they are invincible or at least thing the odds are in their favour, sadly there is only one certainty in life and that is death. Living is the journey on our way to the bitter end, its what we do along the way that defines us. We should as a ‘people’ put aside our petty differences, hatred and violence and enjoy life.
We only get one shot so take it!
All the best and have a speedy recovery.
Neil, I’m sorry to hear you had such a difficult experience but it’s heartening to hear you’ve pulled something positive out of it. I wish you all the best with your recovery . . . and ill remember to look you up if I’m ever in New York/New Jersey! A long way from the UK ;(
7Kobus Reyneke says
Fantastic to hear the “new” Neil is back!
Thank you for sharing and glad to read that you’re ok. I live close to Toronto, Canada and New Jersey is about a 10 hour drive from my place. Would love to visit and maybe collaborate one of these days.
I agree whole heartedly. Like the bible says, we have no promise of tomorrow. My bad thyroid gave me chronic fatigue syndrome that feels almost like me you did on every wedding I shoot.
Neil, welcome back and Godspeed to you!
11Greg Baron says
I’d be happy to go for a nice bike ride with you and talk about photography! Glad you are feeling better and recovering well. I know a few folks who weren’t as lucky as you!
12Greenberg Bonnie says
Woke up to your amazing blog this morning. I just had heartbreak cardiac myopathy. Very similar with no heart damage. Getting my second chance at age 74. Was already in good shape with exercise and diet so I made a fairly quick recovery. Still took two months. My goal is to slow down ,meditate when I can and keep on shooting. Photography is my hobby not my profession. Therefore it becomes my antidote to stress. Good luck to all of us and thanks for the heads up. Stay well.
13Jose Morelos says
Thank you for sharing about your second chance. Great to hear you are doing well!
14Jean Mccabe says
Neil, so happy you are recovering and that you are determined to make new life style choices. Thank you for all the education you pass on.. I have many of you books and find them very informative
Blessings to you
15Sue Eisert says
You were very fortunate. wishing you all the best.
16Nigel Betteridge says
Neil, for you and for all the photographers you helped immeasurably over the years, I am so glad you have been given a second chance. Thank you for the excellent advice on life balance
What a start to a vacation. Great to read all is now well and you are making some lifestyle changes for the better, this blog entry has hit home and I will do the same as I am stationary far too much sitting at the computer either studying or retouching… and the ice cream and chocolate will have to go also, all these things have potential disasterous consequences. Thank you Neil for sharing your story, it is most evident from your words you have a new appreciation of life, glad you are still here and recovering and yes, if I ever get to New York, would love to meet up.
18Brendan Hohls says
Thank you for sharing your experience! I am really pleased for you, your family, and for all of us who follow your work and learn from you that you are well again and so positive of a fresh start!
I find that my two Beagles demand for a daily walk is a blessing as a break of the routine, provides 40 plus minutes of brisk exercise per day, and is a great way of thinking about things and regaining perspective.
I wish that I could pop in and accept your offer, but Pretoria is a bit far.
19Ben Wong says
Neil, glad to hear you made a full recovery and are doing fine. All the best to your health and the many exciting journeys ahead!
20FC Greeff says
Thanks for sharing this experience Neil!! and the wake up call to many of us!
All of the best!!
Creating habits is just as hard as getting rid of them. I’m 17 years smoke free and still dream on occasion that I’m falling off the wagon and I’m smoking again. The act of quitting brought about the exact kind of pain you’ve described, with the added pleasure of something like a claw grabbing my neck and numbness on my left arm. 27/7 for about a month. The numbness still persists to this day but just at the very tip of my left pinky. It was one of the hardest things I had to do in my life this far.
If there’s anything good that happened over the course of last year, is creating a habit of working out every day. It is boring as hell (no matter what I do), but the feeling after is absolutely worth it.
I’ve also taken up cooking more seriously. I always loved it, but now I can truly be in control of what I’m eating, while having a really good time preparing it. And food, pretty much like photography, is an universal language everyone understands (including my 17 year old stubborn alien who lives under my roof :-))
Good Luck with everything. Knowing you, you will stop at nothing. One of the reasons that lends you immense credibility.
22Mark Karlsberg says
You have given so much to the industry for so many years. While I hope you continue to do so, please think about Neil a little more on part 2 of your life. You are a wonderful photographer, communicator and genuine good person. Way too young to have part 1 as the whole story. So giving up Cokes, putting on some steps and eating healthy for the most part will keep the “ticker” going for many years to come.
Most of us need a reminder periodically to take care of ourselves, at least as much as we take care of our cars and photography equipment. Your’s was not such a gentle reminder but did provide a path for “part 2” of your life.
I live in Boston but have two of my three kids living in NYC and Brooklyn. One of these days I hope to take you up on your offer to join you over lunch in NY or NJ.
Wishing you a speedy and full recovery.
23Brian Worley says
Welcome to part 2 Neil.
Those long periods of desk work are not good for anyone, especially me being the other side of 50. I too have a set of rollers in my garage… thanks for the prompt that they are best rolling along with me on a bike, rather than propping up the wall.
Get back to a better life, so that you can keep making great work and teaching.
24April Austin says
OMG Neil. Thank you, thank you, thank you for first of all – not leaving us yet – and second of all, for sharing this experience. My daughter trains with the Rockettes Aug 5-12 and I’ll be hanging around NYC with a laptop editing, or so I thought. I will be getting my camera out more than I thought and making sure I walk everywhere to keep my butt in gear and get that exercise. After 3 years of pro photography, I’m 20 pounds heavier and stuck editing 6+ hours every day. Your wake-up call is exactly what’s been in the back of my mind — why am I doing this to myself?
Take care, and thanks again. I enjoyed our experience together in Vegas last year at the ghost mine when we had that stupid weather/windy day and our poor Garrett models had to endure it all. Looking forward to reading many more future Tangents :)
Congratulations on the new lease on life and thanks for sharing this with us- I may or may not have teared up just a little. I’ve never been to Jersey, I may have to make a road trip and get lunch with you.
26David Bruno says
Hi, Neil – As I wrote earlier, I wasn’t going to comment or ask any questions before reading your post.
I just turned 62. I work full time as an electrical engineer, and have done so for 32 years. My part-time photography business is only 2+ years old. I have not experienced the potential back, knee, neck, shoulder, etc. problems which I’m sure go along with being a full-time wedding photographer.
For at least 20 years, I have gotten up 5 days a week, and before going to work, I have walked a fast 20 minutes on a treadmill while watching the news. When I’m at work, I make sure I get up ever hour or so and take a quick walk around my building.
I have been so fortunate to have a full gym at my disposal, and I am allowed to use it at lunchtime. But, what I have been told (my daughter is an Exercise Specialist at a PT clinic) is all the hard work at the gym at lunch goes for naught if I were to just come back to my office and sit for the rest of the day. There is actually a case study on this.
The point is: keep walking, keep moving, as much as you can. Set a timer in your work area that goes off every hour so you can get up and walk around.
The work can wait a few minutes; the photos will still be there. Maybe in your photo contract, add another business day (or two) for delivery.
Guys our age have to keep moving. Hope you feel better and stronger each day.
Glad to hear you made it, Neil!
God was there with you when the unthinkable happened.
He will always be. Maybe you might want to consider
To give a portion of your time with Him by
Reading the Bible.
Thank you for being a blessing to us.
God bless you!
28Jennifer Lynch says
Neil, for some of us it’s poor diet and lifestyle and the risk of a heart attack. For others it’s other issues or choices that threaten our health and happiness. Either way, your story is an important lesson that life is short and if we don’t find the strength to make changes we are risking our happiness, health and even our lives. Thank you for being so generous and sharing this lesson and your newfound will to be healthier. I will go bike riding with you in New York any time (as soon as I get back.)
Cheers to coming through it and making the commitment to changing for the better! You’ve inspired me in so many other ways that I might as well add being mindful of my health. Here’s to another 50+ years of tangents!
Thank you for being bold enough to share your experience. Godspeed and blessings as you start this new chapter of your life.
31Phil Duffy says
So happy to hear that you are doing better and will make a full recovery! Given the passion and determination which you demonstrate in other aspects of your life, I have no doubt that you will be successful in making the exercise-diet lifestyle changes that you mention above. Take care, get well rested, and thanks for sharing your experience with us.
32Alfredo Medina says
Neil, thank you for letting us know about your illness on your recent trip to Italy. Thank you also for alerting us about the risks we undergo for leading a sedentary and unhealthy life.
I turned 67 and I take a diet based on vegetables and fruits, mainly, trying to avoid frying, fat, salt and sugar. I do very little exercise, but I know that I must increase them and I will do it now, after knowing your experience.
I wish you have a very fast recovery and many, many more years of life.
33Frank Rodrick says
You’re a hell of a teacher, Neil, and not just about photography. Thanks.
34John Strubel says
Neil, glad to hear your o.k. I was at a workshop you did in Wisconsin a few years ago and learned a lot. Happy to hear your going to change your health habits. Funny how most people insure their lives, homes, automobiles, possessions and carry health insurance but don’t take the time to protect what’s most important their bodies through exercise. I’m 70 and have been biking 15-20 miles a day for the past 25 years. Good luck and continued success.
35Jasmin Acevedo says
Happy to read how this life changing experience is having such a positive impact on your life!
A better, healthier life awaits you Neil! How great is that! :)
Thank you for sharing this important reminder with all of us! You’re absolutely right, second chances should not be taken lightly and this article is just the kick in the butt I needed to re-evaluate what’s truly important.
I look forward to what’s ahead for you. FYI-I am whistling and jiggling my leg as I write this. Hope you don’t mind. :)
Here’s to your continued good health.
Good to hear you are safe and sound Neil. This year I turned 46 and I started the year by giving up alcohol for 12 months. I thought I was too young to get old quickly. It’s made everything easier and I have cut out biscuits, junk food and most snacks. And I’m a stone lighter after 7 months without even trying too hard and definitely looking a lot freaher. A lifestyle change takes about 6 weeks to get used to and to change how you think/ crave stuff so stick at it and best of luck!
Glad to see you are recovering fine, even with a good sense of humor. You must be a pretty cool guy! I do greatly enjoy your tangents.
Keep doing what makes you happy, avoid what hurts you!
38Jason Brewer says
Thank you for sharing and get well soon!
39Diana Day says
So glad you walked away from this, your body’s early warning, and on your way to making healthy changes that should keep you around much longer, and enjoying life :-)
40John Brown says
I would like to wish you a speedy recovery and the experience you have gone through has obviously changed your outlook on your lifestyle. My little piece of advice (I am a nurse with 44 years of experience) is to persevere with not drinking fizzy drinks like coke. If you can stay off them for six weeks then the hunger pangs you get when your body craves for sugar will subside and you will have survived ‘cold turkey’ Just drink water and avoid high caffeine drinks and of course reduce your salt intake! These three things will help you feel fitter and healthier so you can get out more and continue with your invaluable photography advice which all really appreciate.
41Steven Joseph Fogarty says
Congratulations on getting well, getting and appreciating a second chance, and sharing with the rest of us. I look like you, a 50-something cicciotto, whose only exercise is my stand-up desk and when I’m out shooting. So I worry about the big one. If – in hindsight – you experienced other symptoms leading up to your heart attack, I appreciate your expounding upon and sharing them.
Neil, so glad you are going to make a complete recovery. A wake up call of all wake ups, pleased you’re taking heed of it and making the necessary life changes going forward. I see so many people having had a second chance continue to live their lives just as they always have.
Don’t worry about ditching the cola and all things sugary, it really is a walk in the park when you have an incentive.
I had a warning beginning of the year, my offshore medical highlighted what was later diagnosed as hypertension. I was given a stern talking to lose weight and alter my diet.
A bit of exercise and a lot of research on which foods were good at helping to reduce blood pressure and I’ve turned things around 8 months on. No more hypertension bp normal all done by dietary changes and the bonus is I actually like everything that I now eat.
To be fair we can all change our diets for the better quite easily, our taste buds quickly adapt to what we put in our mouths and its easy to desensitise them when we consume too much sugar. But it’s easy to reverse that then you start to enjoy foods that you may have considered dull and boring before.
All the best for part 2 of your life Neil, as others have said, make it more about you :-)
Oh and thank you for your valuable and unique contribution to photography, you’ve put so much back by helping others across the globe. I hope to meet you one day and attend one of your courses.
Hey there Neil,
I read your story and I can only say one thing, thank God for your second life, it was Him that pressed the pause button. He knows you and cares more than anyone about your life. Thank Him for that and don’t forget Him.
And taking a time-out will sure inspire you with new ideas!
And oh…I am for your review of the new 70-200 2.8 FL ;-)
All the best with your recovery,
Best wishes from the Netherlands
44Roy Barnes says
That’s an amazing article Neil.
You truly mean so much to so many of us. And not just in the area of photography. We share the journey with you, the art, the passion and…the humanity.
To the future!
Glad you are feeling better and recovering well. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.
Take care, and I’d suggest you consider the possiblity of taking some classes of PILATES.
46CJ Skidmore says
Congrats on your recovery. Second chances are to be cherished. I visit your website daily and have learned a great deal from you. As for exercise (diet is important too), I would highly recommend you try a rebounder. One of the very best exercises for the whole body, and you can do it rain or shine. Put on some lively music or watch a video, and bounce to your “hearts” content. If you do go this route, get a good one and it will last a lifetime.
47VANDERLEY THOMAZ JUNIOR says
Hey, Neil, welcome to part 2!
Ah, being an amateur road cyclist I am happy to know that you are into cycling now – good for you!
Invitation accepted, and the opposite is true: if you ever come to São Paulo – Brasil, I´ll be glad to meet you!
Perhaps the most inspiring post ever… thanks for share!
48Ven McAndrew says
Neil, glad your back with us! You definitely would be missed if not so. I’m 59 and just lost 40 lbs last year. My father died of a heart attack in his early 30’s, just 2 months before I was born. So I’ve been aware for some time that I need to be diligent, but let the weight slip a bit, so off it came. Here’s to second chances! Make the best of it!
Well done Neil on your swift recovery! What an experience and also a fantastic opportunity for someone with your status in the photography world to stick a poker up people’s backsides and get them to wake up to the health side of things. Wishing you all the best.
50Catherine Benson says
Neil, you’re a lucky guy. And we out here are lucky that you share your talent and generosity and humour with us. Get on that bike!
51Paul Sokal says
Glad to hear you dodged that bullet! We met in Dallas several years ago, the time you got jumped by that drunk, dirtball cowboy, and you kicked his ass. You’re too tough to let an MI knock you off. Glad you’re committed to a healthy lifestyle and hope to see you next time I’m in NYC.
52Mo Gelber says
glad that you are okay. thats terrifying to go through, especially in a foreign country without knowing the language.
53Mark Whitson says
Glad to hear you are going to make a full recovery!! That is definitely great news!! I had thought it was unusual that you hadn’t posted anything on the blog in a while, but I just figured you were covered up with deadlines and projects. I hate that something like that happened but glad you are taking it and turning it into something positive. Take care of yourself and enjoy your new lease on life. If I am ever in your area, I will take you up on the invitation. It would be an honor to hang out with one of my favorite photographers, even if just for lunch. And as always thank you for sharing your knowledge and life experiences like this with the Tangents community.
Super glad you made it through that ordeal, Neil. Wow! Indeed, another shot at life! Thanks for the health reminder and most of all, the photography wisdom you’ve shared with us, your followers, all these years. I thanked HIM too for giving you another chance. Take care!
55Tim Byrne says
Congrats, Neil, for both surviving and for the change in attitude. Each are very important.
I could write a story that parallels this. 2 ft of snow in the driveway. I moved it. Came in, passed out. Good news, no GPS for hospital as we are 2 small blocks away from the largest and premier hospital in Maine. Long story short, a triple bypass and aortic aneurysm stent, followed by pneumonia, led to a 30 day stay. Good news, they all spoke English. They couldn’t do the angioplasty through my arm, so now I have a 10 inch zipper. Cute.
More good news. Lost 55 lbs while in the hospital. Have been to McDonalds once since, and that for an orange juice.
Anyhow, I’m now 70, although I almost wasn’t. I’ve shut the studio, but still shoot for a limited number of favorite clients. And for myself. That’s important.
So I wish you well. I’m happy for my cardio-plumbers. And winter sucks here as well. All the best,
56William Perrelli says
God bless you….
A speedy recovery!
57Julio Aponte says
Judging by the amount of comments in your blog, tells that a lot of photographers follow your work and really appreciate you. Glad that you made it back home safe. It hit me hard because I’ve postponed for many months starting to exercise and be on a healthy diet.
Your account has motivated me (as of tomorrow) to take my health issues very serious. God Bless and hope to join you in the future in one of your Seminars or photo walks. Take Care!!!! and thanks for all your exceptional free info in your blog.
58Barbara Jackson says
Thanks for sharing this Neil, such an awful experience for you. So glad you’re ok.
So glad that you are OK now!! Changing your lifestyle will be rewarding in so many ways!! Wishing you health, joy and happiness going forward!!
60Mike S says
It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger! Welcome back my friend..
So, you have seen the elephant, and lived to talk about it.. How cool is that!
Health and wellness be your friend.. Live long and prosper.. Wink wink, nudge nudge :)
Bottom line, now you know what you need to do..
Best of all, you kept a good since of humor thru it all, despite the pain, and the possible outcome.. Very cool..
And thank you for the open invitation.. Maybe a good bike ride? A roller trainer? Dude, you got skills..
The pucks been dropped.. Game on sir!
PS: You’re more than welcome out my way as well.. SoCal, Huntington Beach.. Muuuuuch longer Summers.. lol…
61Stephan Jelonek says
Greetings Neil , You have a great insight into photography and now have a great outlook in life. Gald all is well?! Would enjoy a good Dinner Coffee! Will call next time I return to USA ! Cheers from Australia! Stephan
So glad you’re going to be ok, what a horrible scare, but maybe some good will come from it – and I’m relieved you are still able to share your invaluable knowledge and advice! Take care.
63Paul Hodson says
Great news about your recovery – if not the event itself. Were I not 3000 miles away…
Keep well and look after yourself.
Hi Neil, Ive been “quietly ” following you since quite some time now, bought one of your books and appreciate your kind and helpful response to once of m’y questions on a 70-200 lens.
Glad to see that you have recovered from this and yes keep up thé exercise and as important correct nutrition. Alex
65Wallace Hutchinson says
It was a pleasure reading your blog. I have a heart condition and would love to share my story with you. Dont have the time to share via this response to your blog but would love to share my story and a heart healthy lunch anytime. I also do 30 minutes of bike time every day at home. Best investment I have made in the last two years.
Please let me know if we can meet.
Thanks for sharing your story!
66Felix Klaus says
I am glad that you made in time to the hospital. And there you got the correct treatment for your problem, though in a foreign country with another language. Enjoy your life now, exercise more and drink water. I drank for my whole life apple cider and stopped it a year ago, I lost five kilos. It has an impact. I wish you all the best.
67Alina Oswald says
Powerful post! It made me think of a few lifestyle changes I should make, too. I’m glad that you’re back and feeling better. And, yes, I’d love to collaborate.
68Craig Jackson says
I appreciate your wonderful story of recovery and hope. So glad you are recovered fully and enjoying your family and life. As a cancer survivor, I fully understand the concept of hitting the reset button to focus on new priorities. I wish you great health and long and happy living.
69Sheri Johnson says
I believe you are going to come out of this with a whole new perspective and have a new balanced life that will take things to the next level like you would never believe. Thanks for sharing your story. I have seen my health go up and down over the years and I took my health back last year before anything bad happened. I got so disappointed in how I felt and looked and decided last year was my year to make changes. So glad you are still with us.
70Perry jones says
Thanks for sharing your story with us I’m sure it’s going to change many of our lives, I was touched by it because my wife and I was vacating in Greece last year when she felt a mild burning and had difficulty breathing after walking and climbing the mountain to visit The Acropolis Citadel.
When we returned to New Jersey she was diagnosed with blocked arteries and required quadruple bypass Surgery, what a life change.
She consider this her second chance, thank god and the team of cardiologist at Morristown Medical Center.
She’s doing very well and taking full advantage by dieting and exercising.
I enjoy the way you teach, your news letters and books.
I’m very happy that you didn’t have any long term damage to your heart, I pray that you make a full recovery and stay healthy.
I hope to attend one of your seminars in the near future.
71Meryl Alcabes says
Wow–glad to hear you are ok! What an ordeal! Good reminders for all of us here. Thanks for sharing.
72Justin Bonaparte says
wow. WOW! What an amazing story! So glad you are back on your feet! Ugh, no Coke, hard to imagine! Keep up the inspiring work, my best to you and yours!
73Alex O’Neal says
Definitely a wake up call. And inspirational telling of the tale. Thank god you are ok. Appreciate all the blog posts. Many thanks – and here’s hoping for many more years of inspiration to come!
74Michael Parker says
Glad to read that you made it through your ordeal, it would certainly have been a wake up call.
All the very best to you and your family.
75Richard Siminski says
I second all the positive comments from all the others. I have learned so much from you. So please allow me to pass something on to you, from a a sign that hangs in my local bike shop: “Today, someone busier than you is riding
their bike!”. I wish you a full and complete recovery.
76jim atyeo says
I am extremely happy you have made such progress after your terrible ordeal. I can empathize because I had the exact same symptoms, and almost went ahead and taught my photo class first, instead of going to the hospital. It was the burning sensation under the sternum. I drove myself to the hospital and at first they thought it was my gallbladder. However when the troponin levels starting going off the charts they raced me to the cath lab. For me they had to go through the femoral artery, I had a 100% blockage of LDA and an 85% block and aneurysm on the artery next to it.
They had to do mine 4 weeks apart because of the danger. I was not thrilled about going through that again so soon. As you say, it is weird to be awake and watching the monitor as they thread the balloon up there. We are both lucky men. I also got what is called a Margery, I was freezing and bouncing on the table from the cold contrast so they swathed me in warm blankets.
My doctor said my heart event, as they called it, only about 20% make it from a blocked LDA, which is why they call it the widow maker. I too was shocked when I had the acid feel which I had not heard of that as a symptom before.
I do wish they could have done mine through my wrist. Mine happened 3 years ago, I guess that wasn’t perfected yet. Be well and take it a bit slow at first. We are both card carrying stentist now. All my very best, Jim
77Paul Gero says
Whew…glad you’re on the mend. Thank God for advances in medicine.
Continue getting well and thank you for sharing.
Wishing you all the best…always! Keep the positive…”live life to the fullest”…energy up! Looking forward to meeting up sometime….SOON….to shoot the breeze and shoot…whatever!
79Deon Maartens says
Be safe and look after your self.
80GENE LOBB says
So glad you made the “Great Escape”. Have been a big fan for many years and you have taught me much during this time. At 76, I enjoy photography as a hobby and a challenge to keep my mental acuity sharp as possible. Getting out to shoot nature subjects and events is not a form of pressure for me but provides exercise as well.
I hope that you will still be able to maintain your blog and provide the invaluable insight that you do as a great photographer. Thank you so much for sharing and may you continue to enjoy good health, and a happy and fulfilling life.
81Dan Hirsh says
Very glad you’re ok Neil. Being lost in Italy while healthy is nerve racking enough. I learned so much in your Denver workshop and on the blog. Here are a few things that have helped me stay fit. Use a standing desk. Add your exercise to your calander and do it. Start small and do something you enjoy. Mix it up. Try classes with other people for the push me and for the social aspect.
82John Botha says
Sorry to hear that your trip was marred by an unfortunate health event but SO glad and happy for you and your family that you came through it all with a renewed vigour, attitude and view on life.
Thank you for sharing your story with us and thank you for always so openly and freely sharing your photography knowledge and expertise with us all.
John – South Africa
83sterling roberts says
SO glad your health is improving and all went so well while out of the USA and in the hospital, I will be 70 soon and have been in this business since 1970 (was in engineering college before) so I know what you are talking about when you say “not taking care or eating right”, time to change a few things huh? I am coming to NJ next week to see my son, just wish I was there long enough to have that lunch you mentioned, perhaps another time.
Be well and stay safe,
I hope not to be late for welcoming a NEW Neil. I will heartily support your second chance.
I live in Italy, close to Venice. Next time you’ll come to Italy I’ll be glad to show you around. A quiet visit of Venice – by foot, not by vaporetto! – is only 4 or 5 miles, a good physical exercise… :-)
Just a quick addition to tempt you:
so good to hear, you are back on your feet again!!
And, yes, take care, skip the Coke and the burgers …. at least for a while.
I am sitting here right now, at my desk (dayjob, in the office), eating a tiny bowl of yoghurt with a banana and a bit of walnut and avocado… Not so bad actually.
Lunch: veggies with feta cheese, fresh from the oven.
High blood pressure is not a good thing.
all the best from Germany, and get perfectly well soon!
86Deb Brewer says
Neil, I’m so sorry to hear of your experience. We never think it will happen to us and then, boom! I’ve been on a quest to optimal health over a year now. It is a challenging commitment long term but the rewards are priceless. Kudos to you for taking action now.
87Kate MacLeod says
Hi Neil, after all of your helpful photography advice over the years, thank you for sharing your personal story here. Sending wishes that you’ll continue to feel better, and live the life that you want.
Neil, I’ll add to what many others have said: thank you very much for sharing your New You. As I know the difficulty of trying to change years of habits, I’ll wish you all the best in carrying your intentions to fruition. Old habits have a terrible way of being ingrained. Getting others to join and be a support with you in your changes is very helpful. Pax, Robert
Hey Neil, thank you for sharing your experience. I am sorry to hear what happened. Glad to hear you’re doing better. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better photographer. I would love to meet you one of these days. Cheers to good health!!!!!!!
I’ve just read your frank story. I am so glad that your switch is not flipped and you’re still enlighting everything where you are! I so much respect your work you share with all of us and highly respect you as a person! Thank you, thank you very much!
Have a greeting from peaceful Russia!
God bless you!
91Mike Hodos says
You photographed my sister’s wedding and I have been following your blog for years.
My best wishes for a continued and speedy recovery. I’m glad this life lesson shouldn’t have any lasting deleterious effects.
I changed my lifestyle about 5 years ago, luckily before I had to learn the same lesson. Sounds like you’ll make some great changes and look forward to your work and words for years to come.
Glad you are well Neil. The photography world would not be the same without you!
93Hannes Frischat says
all the best to you and the yours, and further speedy recovery!
Some honest confessione between us both (I know you don’t know me personally, but still):
1. I owe you so much in regards of photography, immensely, through your books, videos, website etc.
2. When watching your videos during the years I began to be concerned about your health. You were clearly developing signs of overweight and short breath. I thought “what a pity for such an able man”.
3. I began to notice the same symptoms at my body too, sadly. Cicciotto and sometimes not the same air like it used to be. Received some warnings from my surrounding friends, too.
Now this episode in your life. In a way it could be the best thing to happen, right? Let it be a warning for me as well. Thanks for that, thanks for sharing.
Here is something I found to be very uplifting:
Unfortunately I can’t post a diagram here but be sure to scroll down to the relation between age and happiness. The best is still to come yet!
All the best wishes, Hannes
94Louis Carr says
It’s a Tuesday evening here in Galway Ireland, I have just read your post and I’m speechless. I’m only after reading about your heart attack, I wish you a speedy recovery.
I cam across your blog by chance a number of years ago and all I can say that I was hooked straight away. I saw a couple of videos that you did om line and I think we share the same personality’s straight talking, straight to the point and no bull S**t.
I’m self employed wedding photographer and videographer and I can full relate to what you said in this blog post.
From looking in from time to time on your blog I have gained so much more knowledge and confidence about my work. I grasped O.C.F straight away from this blog I was the first photographer in my area to use it at all of my weddings and now everyone is at it.
I know that my photos are no where near as good as yours,but I’m getting there.
All the best of good health to you and your family in the future.
I’ll keep a closer eye on your blog from now on.
95Franz Rossi says
good to know that at the end everything went well. I just read about it and if I knew I would have just crossed the border and come to help. A friend of mine works at the S.Anna hospital, you were in good hands.
96Neil vN says
Saluti da New York!
Today is not only Mid-Winter Solstice, it is also exactly 5 months since I had the acute myocardial infarction while on a trip to Italy. Against all odds, I made it to the hospital in time, and received wonderfully attentive care from the staff at the hospital in Como, Italy.
This week I finally got it together to send the doctors and nurses a ‘Thank You’ postcard … this one. Me in New York. Alive and well. It is quite apt since their nickname for me was “New York”.
This is me then, 5 months on, and 30 lbs lighter, and still working on my fitness every day. Last night I put in a solid 40 minutes on my bicycle on the rollers. I worked up a sweat, but didn’t feel winded.
I feel good, and I think I look good. I definitely look better than I did 6 months ago.
Not only is this a shoutout to the staff at the hospital, but also to my wife, Sara, and my daughter, Janine – and the many friends who helped me and who offered to help me, and who called me and checked up on me, and who came over to hang out with me. Also a big thank you for the followers of this blog and your well wishes. Thank you for reaching out to me. It is always hugely appreciated.
So yeah, this is all pretty good news.
Speaking of good news … we got the final bill from the Italian hospital last week, and wow. Yeah. What a nice surprise. From my experience, the Italian medical system is awesome on every level.
I’ve had a few people ask how I lost the weight – mostly because I stopped drinking sodas immediately. No Cokes. Nothing. Just water and seltzer, and one decaf coffee a day. No chocolates. Very little sweets – mainly peppermints when I have the urge for candy. Then most importantly, I cut out a LOT of saturated fat from my diet. That’s about it. (And no, I am not asking for advice on diet … I am doing fine.)
Again, thank you to everyone for the support and friendship. It meant the world to me the past few months.
My original invitation still stands … if you’re in the area, come hang out with me; let’s create; let’s do stuff.
97Donald Boys says
You look just great. Keep up the good work. 7 years beyond my triple bypass now and inspired by your significant weight loss. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
98Marco Venturini Autieri says
I started reading your blog since I watched your seminal video about bouncing flash, that taught me a lot.
I read today (24/12/17) the follow up to this blog post (that I had already read, and I’m glad I recall it).
It struck me because I’m Italian and because I have the bad feeling that unfortunately the kind of teaching that your illness gave you for free can only be taught directly, not watching a video not reading a blog. I am afraid I will have to experience (and survive) the same kind of ordeal to get the same inspiration that now makes you feel you’re living a second life.
I travel very little. I live in Tuscany and New Jersey is far off for a man who doesn’t board on planes ;)
99EStelle Potgieter says
Glad you are doing well and that you have a second chance at life. Tomorrow it will be 23 years ago that you took my wedding photos here in SA.. I see that you are not using Pentax anymore. LOL
I love your videos about photography, hopefully I will learn from your technique’s.
I saves this blogpost from you as a firm reminder on what can happen and how you can change stuff. I’m really curious in how’s it going now with you? All the best from The Netherlands.
100.1Neil vN says
Hi there Danny,
Now, more than 5 years later, I am still on top of the world. All is well.
100.1.1Danny Eeltink says
Good to hear Neil!!