- In This Issue -

2011 - 2012 Section Officers

Hugh Biele - Chair
Lola Marie McAlpin-Grant - Vice
Edward J. Horowitz - Treasurer
Patricia Lobello-Lamb - Secretary
Jill Switzer - Immediate Past

Executive Committee

Marilyn W. Alper
Philip W. Bartenetti
Robert Berliner
John Carson
Hon. Lawrence W. Crispo
Joseph E. Deering, Jr.
Peter Dolan
Jacqueline M. Fabe
L. Ernestine Fields
Alan L. Fox
Cynthia Elizabeth Gitt
Roger Martin Grace
Harry Hathaway
Nowland C. Hong
Frankie L. F. Leung
Philip Nelson Lee
Charles E. Michaels
Robert M. Newell, Jr.
Ellen A. Pansky
Patricia Phillips
Anthony de los Reyes
Toby J. Rothschild
Deborah Crandall Saxe
Hon. George Schiavelli
Robert Schirn
Edwin C. Summers
William Lew Tan
Caroline C. Vincent
Michael L. Wachtell

An ePublication of the Los Angeles County Bar Association
Volume 1, Number 1 • July 2011• Archives of Past Issues
Visit the Senior Lawyers Section web page

Message From the Chair

As the 2011-2012 Chair of the Senior Lawyers Section (SLS), I would like to invite you to become a member of the LACBA Senior Lawyers for the same reasons that motivated me to join and become involved in the Section:

1. SLS offers a wide variety of social activities that give you and your lawyer colleagues the opportunity to re-connect!
2. SLS offers fascinating programs, providing opportunities to obtain several hours of CLE credit each year, including those elusive ethics credits!
3. Most importantly, we have a lot of fun!

Feel free to contact me at hughbiele@aol.com if you would like further information on upcoming SLS programs and events. And I hope you will enjoy the first issue of our newsletter, the "Dinosaur Digest."

Hugh I. Biele
Chair, Senior Lawyers Section

Tribute to Jill Switzer

It is a real treat for me to begin this inaugural edition of the Dinosaur Digest with recognition of our immediate past chair, Jill Switzer. She led the Senior Lawyer Section (SLS) of the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) with great leadership, hard work, finesse and wit. She delegated work among her teammates and supervised all activities of the SLS from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.

The "Frozen in Time" series was repeated for the third year in a row with an exhaustive presentation on the "Michael Jackson Trials." Jill had actually begun the preparation for that CLE program almost a year before the September 15, 2010 presentation. The program included a panel of legal luminaries, including the retired Judge Rodney S. Melville, who presided over the molestation trial of Michael Jackson in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

She also helped inspire the "Retirement 101" CLE program presented in November, 2010. That program focused on some of the ethical considerations in leaving or closing a practice as well as expert advice on valuating a law firm or practice. The program established that it essential for retiring lawyer to be familiar with the ethical considerations and selling a practice produces little value.

Jill's leadership helped develop the spectacular and successful "Trailblazers of the Bar" event on John Marshall Day (February 3, 2011). Executive Committee member, Roger Grace (publisher and editor of the Metropolitan News), conceived the idea and Jill helped putting together a great team of people to participate in the planning and presentation.. The first Trailblazers were Lee S. Edmon, the first female Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court and Sam Williams, the first African-American President of LACBA and then the State Bar of California. The program began with cocktails, wine and appetizers, then an in-depth video presentation for each Trailblazer.

Jill led an effort to do another CLE program entitled "Channeling Justice" about lawyers on television, to follow-up on a program last year about lawyers in the movies. Last, but not least, with the inspiration of Deborah Saxe, Jill helped organize the first ever SLS retreat at the lovely La Canada home of Patricia Phillips to be held uon Saturday, July 16, 2011.

Patricia Phillips, David J. Pasternak and Harry Hathaway

In starting up the Senior Lawyer Section (SLS) of the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA), there was a moving force of about twenty prospective members of the Executive Committee (EC), led by the dynamic "team of three" consisting of Patricia Phillips, David J. Pasternak and Harry Hathaway, all past presidents of LACBA and all three dedicated to the formation of SLS. After initial concept discussions the first formal meeting of the SLS was a reception at the downtown Omni Hotel consisting mostly of the initial group of twenty. The dynamics of the meeting were electrifying. Some of the highest, most recognized leaders of Los Angeles Law attended. Nonetheless, it took that original dynamic "team of three" to get things going. That "team of three" served successively as the first three chairs of the LACBA SLS EC. This article is intended to provide some background information for those three fabulous leaders.

Pat Phillips is a native Angelino who graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1956. One can just imagine what a lively figure she must have been on campus. After graduation, she initially set about raising a large and healthy family, but decided to seek a law degree by continuing her education at the Loyola School of Law, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, graduating in 1967 with a Juris Doctor degree. She is now a partner at the law firm of Phillips Jessner in Los Angeles where she specializes in family law, civil litigation, mediation and arbitration for families, children, business and employment. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and is certified by the State Bar of California as a Family Law Specialist. Pat is an expert in the complex arena of identification and valuation of community property, valuation of business assets and division of property. She has been practicing law for almost 45 years!

Her list of accomplishments is nothing short of astounding. Pat is the first woman to be elected President of the 25,000 member LACBA, the largest voluntary bar association in the United States and probably the world. In1991, Pat was further honored as the recipient of the most prestigious Shattuck Price Award, presented annually to LACBA's "Outstanding Lawyer." She has been honored by both her undergraduate and law school alma maters as an outstanding alumna; presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Distinguished Service Award from the Loyola Law School Alumni Association, and the Outstanding Community Service Award from the Levitt & Quinn Family Law Center. Despite a very active law practice and earning so many honors along the way, Pat is the best networker around and she is still a 'barrel of fun" in all of her bar activities.

In 1985, Pat was presented with the Ernestine Stahlhut award by the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles and later, the Dragon Slayer Award from the California Women Lawyers (One can envision Pat Phillips in a flowing gown holding the scales of justice by her left hand and using the sword of freedom in the other fighting off the fire blowing dragon). In addition, Pat served for three years on the Judicial Council of the State of California; as a member and former chair of the Los Angeles County Commission on Judicial Procedures; as a member and vice president of the Board of Governors of the State Bar of California, where she organized the Statewide Committee on Professionalism and Public Action; and she served as chair of the State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners and the Commission on the Future of the Legal Profession and the State Bar.

She also completed a term as President of the prestigious Chancery Club being the first woman to occupy any officer position of that organization.

David Pasternak is a member of Pasternak, Pasternak & Patton, A Law Corporation in Century City. Since 1982, he has been appointed as a state and federal court receiver, provisional director, partition referee, special master, and Bankruptcy Court Custodian well over 100 times, and has represented and advised other receivers and provisional directors in hundreds of other cases. His receivership appointments include regulatory, rents-and-profits, liquidation, marital dissolution, and collection of judgment receiverships.

As a receiver, he has operated commercial, residential and industrial properties throughout Southern California, including the Long Beach World Trade Center, other office buildings, apartment complexes, and a Big Bear resort facility. His business appointments include escrow companies, a car wash, a hospital, aged care facilities, medical offices, clothing and other manufacturers, a website design and maintenance business, and a variety of other retail and service businesses. He also has served as a health and safety code receiver for a number of Southern California cities, and has collected medical and other accounts receivable for judgment debtors and others. He has served as a Receiver many times at the request of the California Attorney General and the California Department of Corporations.

Until recently, he served as the Receiver of a holding company that owned both Wickes Furniture Company and one of its major suppliers. As such, he served as a member of the Board of Directors of both Wickes and its related company until he sold Wickes and most of the assets of its sister company. He distributed over $53 million in that receivership estate.

In addition, he currently serves as the federal court Receiver in a $150 million mortgage fraud case in which he has taken possession of some 85 expensive homes in California and Wyoming, as well as an array of other assets, including fine wines, art, jewelry, home furnishings, firearms, and various interests in high-end West Los Angeles home developments. He has sold most of those assets.

He also currently serves at the request of the California Attorney General's Office as the Receiver of California Research and Assistance Fund, the multi-million dollar non-profit benefit corporation established through insurance company contributions after the Northridge earthquake.

David is a past President of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, a former chair of its Litigation Section, and a former President of its Barristers Section. He has chaired many committees for the American Bar Association, Los Angeles County Bar Association, and Beverly Hills Bar Association, among others. He is a founding Co-Chair of what is now the Los Angeles/Orange County branch of the California Receivers Forum, and a member of its Board of Directors. He regularly writes and speaks about receivership practice. He also has served on a number of California Judicial Council and Los Angeles Superior Court committees, including some bench/bar committees that revised the Los Angeles Superior Court rules. He recently served as a member of the California Judicial Council and an attorney delegate to the 9th Circuit Judicial Conference.

Harry Hathaway is another Angelino and proud of it. He attended the University of California, Berkeley where he became a distinguished military graduate and where he graduated with a B. S. degree in Finance in 1959. He then went to law school at the University of Southern California where he was president of the graduating law class of 1962 and obtained a J.D. degree also in 1962. He was admitted to practice law by the State Bar of California in 1963 and was also admitted to practice before all state and federal courts, as well as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

From 1963 through 1965 Harry was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve in addition to his law studies. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in 1964 and to the rank of Captain in 1965. During this period he was also Aide de Camp to the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Intelligence Corps.

Harry Hathaway is currently Of Counsel with the law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski, but was previously partner-in-charge of the Fulbright firm for a period of 12 years. He represents all form of business entities in their transactional matters involving business organization, merger and acquisition as well as business reorganization. He counsels management, boards of directors and shareholders in all business issues, corporate governance and disputes. Through his vast experience he maintains a practice involving trusts and estates and private wealth counseling. Harry regularly advises nonprofit corporations and trusts plus their directors and trustees in their business affairs. He currently sits on several nonprofit boards. Clients select Harry as their counsel primarily for his broad experience in leading organizations and boards, including the Fulbright firm.

Harry's recent significant matters include his selection by accounting firms and business consultants to assist in the restructuring of family businesses to provide for the orderly transition of management and preservation of wealth. He also counsels boards of directors of private companies on various governance and internal matters, as well as serving as counsel to business executive in complex corporate matters which require reorganization of management and the spinoff of operating entities plus the duties of the fiduciary. Harry also counsels high net worth clients on business and family succession matters and counsels nonprofit organizations on their business and philanthropic affairs.

To record all of his professional activities and memberships as well as his professional honors would take another several pages, but for the purposes of this newsletter, only the highlights will be reported. Harry was President of LACBA for the 1989-1990 term; he was part of the "team of three" in organizing SLS, has served on its EC from the beginning and was the third Chair of the EC for the LACBA SLS. He too, was a President of the Chancery Club from 2010-2011; he was chair of the U.C. Berkeley Foundation Board of Trustees from the year 2000 through 2003 and is still serving that board as Emeritus Trustee; and he currently serves on the boards of numerous commercial corporations and nonprofit entities. Harry is former trustee of the Los Angeles County Bar Foundation, and he is most proud to currently serve as the Board President of the Manor Vail Lodge, in Vail, Colorado (do you think he likes to ski?).

Harry Hathaway has also been very active in American Bar Association (ABA) activities for over forty years, starting soon after he graduated from law school, serving as Chair of its Young Lawyer Division from 1970 – 1971 and as Chair of its Senior Lawyer Division from 2001 – 2002. He also served on the Board of Governors from 1990-1994 and as a director of the American Bar Retirement Funds, Inc. for the past decade, serving as its president from 2008-2009. He has been a Director of the American Bar Endowment from 1979-1995 and was its President from 1987-1989. He was active on the Editorial Board of the ABA Journal and was editor of the Journal from 1982-1989. On top of all of that, Harry is a mentor to many lawyers inside and outside his firm and still remains an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hunting, fishing, skiing and mountain climbing.

Among his many professional honors, he was named a "Super Lawyer" of the Southern California Top 100 (2004-2005) and was presented with the Difference Maker Award by the ABA General Practice Section in 2002. Harry is a Sustaining Life-Benefactor Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and an Emeritus Life Trustee for the University of California, Berkeley. In 2003, Harry Hathaway was presented the U.C. Berkeley Chancellor's award, the highest award given to a volunteer by the university. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America, Corporate, Trusts and Estates for over twenty years, in Who's Who in America and in Who's Who in American Law.

The Birth of a Dinosaur
By Harry Hathaway

For the past year I have come to the office to be greeted by a large brontosaurus doll and a coffee mug and coaster with the Senior Lawyers "dinosaur crest" mounted thereon. Of course, I am wearing my dinosaur lapel pin! This is because I am the third chair and one of the founders of the three-year old Senior Lawyers Division of the Los Angeles County Bar Association ("LACBA"). The Division was founded by three former presidents of LACBA, Patricia Phillips, David J. Pasternak and myself; they preceded me in that order. The dinosaur has become our logo and trademark. People love it.

I jokingly tell others that we created a parking lot for ourselves and many other senior lawyer members of LACBA. Much to our surprise, the Senior Lawyers Division has become a very successful parking place for lawyers age 55 and over or with 25 years of practice. Initially, we were concerned that lawyers would be reluctant to be branded "over 55"; but this has not been the case. Actually, we are not a grave yard or even a parking lot, probably because 60 is the new 50 for most aging adults.

We do not take ourselves seriously, ergo the dinosaur logo; but at our "advanced age" we take our practices, our bar association and public service seriously. In this day of high pressure on lawyers in a very competitive environment, we all need some comic relief, camaraderie and a place to do public service with those of our age group.

As a Division of LACBA, we do not have a substantive law program. Being non substantive does not mean that we do nothing – quite to the contrary. We sponsor events and programs which encompass a wide array of events. Our programs have ranged to gerontology, aging and memory loss, so we can be better in touch with ourselves, our colleagues and those senior to us.

Our social outings have been most successful! We held a barbeque at a Hollywood Bowl concert, where the chef and organizer, Hugh Biele and one of our own, almost "cooked" himself to death. Naturally, this year we will have a caterer! From there, we stayed in Hollywood, taking the next event to the Magic Castle where the professional comics and magicians harpooned us with lawyer jokes . . . but the dinosaurs fought back with brontosaurus humor. The public loved it!

Our program "Reel Justice" this year brought a great turnout where we had the authors of the book by the same name address us using film clips of lawyers depicted in the movies over most all of the Hollywood years. It was a fun evening, totally interactive and was enhanced with lots of popcorn and beer.

Turning to the serious side, still non-substantive, we have established a "Frozen in Time" series (the ice age got the dinosaur – remember?) which is a spot light on an important happening in legal history and lessons we learned from it as a profession. Previous programs have been: The Warren Commission Report on the JFK assassination in 1962 – did they get it right? A few are still convinced there was a conspiracy. The impact of the O.J. Simpson Trial on the judicial system; Result: cameras left the courtroom thereafter and slow speed police chases presently abound. Presently, we are focused upon the civil and criminal trials of the legend, Michael Jackson, for a program in the fall. In all of those programs, what is really fascinating is that we have many of the original players (unless deceased or in jail) in those matters on the stage with us sharing their stories and what was learned from those history making events.

Our programs on the attorney in transition; how to handle a change in career or practice late in professional life and how to cope with the layoff in today's cruel world have been very well attended. It is amazing to learn how many lawyers want change in later life, but do not wish to completely "hang it up". For those who are victims of the recession, a little handholding can be a great lift.

We have had terrific success with our mentoring programs. At first we thought that this would essentially be a program for younger lawyers. Much to our surprise, young and old show up to hear and share war stories and hear and discuss the recipe for peace in their lives and possible new directions.

One of our new projects is to develop a listing of law firms for sale through our website. The ethical rules provide for this; why can't the bar facilitate it for attorneys? Who will be the best consumers of this service – senior lawyers (even though many of us plan to "die with our boots on") and young lawyer purchasers. Interestingly, the concept came from a younger lawyer. Now, let me share with you the formation of one of LACBA's more successful undertakings…its Senior Lawyers Division.

Blueprint for the Formation of a Local Bar Senior Lawyers Group

Early 2007 it was recognized that a senior lawyers division would be a desirable addition to the Los Angeles County Bar Association. The need became even more apparent upon the completion of several profiles of the LACBA membership which revealed that there were in excess of 6,500 lawyers age 55 and greater, representing 25% of the LACBA membership. LACBA had spent time developing law student and first year new lawyers, but did not have a comparable outreach to the senior lawyers. The objectives in creating a senior lawyers division were:

• Serve the senior lawyer member population with quality and interesting products and services suitable for the senor lawyer member

• Expand the life time value of the LACBA member by extending the membership interests well into the senior lawyer years of membership

• Create a paying division that would contribute to the overall revenue stream of LACBA by not only extending the LACBA membership years, but providing a separate revenue stream by the senior lawyer paying to participate in the new division

• Create a new division that would act as the mentoring model to its own as well to other areas such as the law students and newer lawyer members

• Capitalize on the wealth of affinity partner relationships that can be developed that serves the senior lawyer market

• Most important of all, create a LACBA division that targets the senior lawyer providing much needed information and services principally in non-substantive areas of law and providing the senior lawyer an opportunity and vehicle to continue to contribute to the overall Association and the legal community

The Chief Marketing Officer of LACBA, Michael "Tim" Elliott, proposed that the first step in the development of the new division was to identify a set of senior lawyer leaders who were acquainted with the Association and devoted to the success of the new division. The identified new leadership was made up of many of the legends in the legal profession in Los Angeles County, including many past presidents of LACBA. To make the new division a success, a strong staff support element also was needed that could assist, guide and at times take the lead in the development of the fledgling division. It was decided that the LACBA Marketing Department would be used in developing the new division. The Marketing Department carried specialized staff that could provide technical and special services that moved the project at a quickened pace. Over a short time period the following was developed:

• All senior lawyer members were surveyed to determine specific areas of interest

• A set of guiding principles, goals and bylaws were developed

• All senior lawyers were advised of the creation of the new division and its purpose, and a request was sent to those who expressed an interest in getting involved in the leadership and committee structure

• A website was developed and launched

• The new division was branded for ease of identity and a rallying point for all senior lawyers

• The basic structure of the new division was established from the executive committee to the committees that support the various services and products of the new division

With a solid division organization structure, good marketing intelligence, development of a marketing plan and timetable and web site along with dedicated staff support, the Senior Lawyers Division was ready for the next phase.

Following all of the above planning and staging, the new division was launched in 2008 using an electronic outreach to potential senior lawyer members statewide. The email notice provided the information about the new division including structure, leadership and goals. The e-mail informed them that they are now members of the new division and the first year membership has been waived in order to demonstrate the value of the new division. Anyone that would like to opt out was provided a link to do so. The total opt outs were less than 20 out of over 6,500.

As the division entered the 2009 membership year invoicing period, the major question the division leadership asked was "did we provide real value and will the members now pay to join the division upon receiving the invoice?" The established goal was 2,000 paid members. Invoices were sent in October 2008 for the 2009 member year. The result exceeded the division expectations with 3,086 paid members representing over $108,000 in new revenue to the Association! We were at this point the largest section division in the L.A. County Bar!

The new division remains the largest of the LACBA Sections/Divisions and continues to offer a full slate of activities, products and services for the senior lawyer members. Now, additional committees have been staged to offer additional services including:

• Historical Committee The division has taken on the responsibility of keepers of the historical records of the Association and legal profession in Los Angeles County. Plans call for the completion of the legal history that has previously been documented through 1953 in a published book, "Lawyers of Los Angeles". We hope to publish a second edition which will chart the history of the Bar through 2010. We hope to have an historical web site that displays historical pictures, stories and documents.

• A Publications Committee has yet to be formed to explore new publication options and enhance the division's newsletter "Senior Moments."

• A Website Committee oversees continued development of the division web site offerings.

The division expects to continue to grow as new products and services are developed. The division is proud of its accomplishments, its clever branding and unique place in the overall Association. As the largest of the Sections/Divisions, it enjoys a leadership position within the Association structure with many women and judicial members.

With the addition of the Senior Lawyers Division, the Association has completed a full life membership cycle by providing products and services targeted to key career milestones from the law student, to new attorneys, to established attorneys and now to senior lawyers. Hopefully, the birth of a dinosaur in 2008 will lead to the birth of more "modern day dinosaurs" within the ABA affiliate structure.

Heart Health
By Jeff Chiarenzelli

Friends and Colleagues,

As some of you may know it has been about a year since I had quadruple by-pass surgery last March (Friday the 13th of all days) and I wanted to share what I have learned from the experience in the hope that it might help some of you or your friends and relatives. Please feel free to contact me or pass my name on to any of your loved ones who may be facing a similar situation. I'd be happy to talk about it.

Lesson #1 - It Can Happen to Anyone

Needless to say I was quite surprised when I went directly from my stress test at the Potsdam-Canton hospital to Burlington without a chance to collect my tooth brush and PJs. I've always considered myself a very healthy and active person with few of the most significant risk factors for heart disease. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been so smug. Heart disease is a major killer and often is asymptomatic and lethal with the first indication of trouble. In my case I had plenty of symptoms but choose to ignore and deny the obvious. Among them was a sharp, crushing chest pain which radiated down both arms making them numb. The pain was most apparent upon physical exertion, particularly playing squash or during cold winter nights when I enjoy walking around in the frigid, moon-lit silence. In addition, during the months leading up to my operation I gradually become lethargic, confused, easily frustrated with simple things, and came home from work and immediately fell asleep in a chair for many hours. In my morning classes I struggled to concentrate, stay on task, and remember things that I know quite well. By afternoon most of the symptoms would clear and I'd convince myself I was fine and just feeling the natural effects of my age (50 at the time).

Lesson #2 – You Must be Your Own Medical Advocate

I did seek medical attention in December 2009, mostly because my doctor insisted that I take some medication to address my moderately high (~220) cholesterol levels. The medication gave me an intense headache, a feeling of disequilibrium, and a variety of other unpleasant side effects. Upon checking my cholesterol levels after a month of treatment (I wanted reassurance that the misery of what I was going through was indeed helping me) the doctor found that my blood triglyceride levels had spiked 10-fold; something that was completely unexpected and the medication was ceased immediately. Upon my doctor's reassurance that I was one of the healthiest people in his practice, I chalked up my chest pain to some other minor problem and didn't worry about it. After all, the doctor told me that a stress test was unneeded, as I essentially passed one every time I played squash or racquetball or went for a run

It took me another two months and increasingly severe chest pains (and the urging of my wife) to return for another visit. It got to the point where I could barely walk across campus or up stairs, although almost magically the symptoms would disappear after a half hour or so of vigorous exercise (the weekend before my stress test I cut up this winter's wood supply). This time I insisted on a stress test and the excitement began when it was found that part of my heart had little or no blood flow! My point is not to blame my doctor at the time, but to point out my own culpability at not being more honest with myself and more proactive about seeking medical attention. As my wife would no doubt say, I should have listened to her sooner.

Lesson #3 – It's Not as Bad as You Might Think

Imagine that your heart's largest arteries are between 90-95% clogged with the same stuff that glues together the chocolate cookie part of an Oreo and someone is about to cut open your sternum with something resembling a circular saw. Your heart, which has been more or less happy for 50 years, will be disconnected from its favorite circulatory system for 4-6 hours, while apparently optional blood vessels are yanked out of your body and reinstalled elsewhere. Scary? Indeed. Based on the plot of a Saw rerun? You bet. Well, it really wasn't all that bad. Honest.

The by-pass operation is now a staple of many hospitals and a standard procedure in the treatment of heart disease. Literally millions of these operations are preformed every year and some of them are bound to be successful. Irrespective of why the arteries clogged in the first place, they know how to handle it. In contrast to abdominal surgery where several layers of muscle are severed, it is relatively painless and recovery can be quick and easy. Within a few hours of waking up in the ICU they have you up and walking around. Granted, however, you do need a shopping cart to hold all the medical apparatus that's attached to you. In contrast to just a few decades ago, when many heart patients were confined to extensive bed rest and told to retire and get their affairs in order, it's a breeze.

Lesson #4 – It Pays to be Healthy and Active

I don't have a clue why my arteries clogged up so drastically. After exclaiming, "That's not good", one doctor showed me how bent and contorted the arteries were while I was undergoing an angiogram and theorized that their shape may have played a big role in the blockage. At the time I was filled up with the wonderful "I don't care" drug and it was interesting to see the situation first hand, even if the fast and easy fix the doctor initially promised me (a stent or two) essentially vaporized right in front of my eyes. I didn't really have many of the traditional risk factors and had always been fairly fit and get plenty of exercise. My cholesterol was elevated, but my folks, who are both very healthy and in their mid-70's, have levels almost twice mine. So I never even gave heart disease a thought.

Some might take this as a sign that it really doesn't matter how you take care of yourself because of the seemingly random things that can rob you of your health or life. My point is that I firmly believe that my recovery was relatively easy and pain free because I was in good shape (other than my heart issues). People who are older, are in poor physical conditions, or have extenuating health circumstances often don't do as well. In my case I was up and walking several miles a day within a few days of returning home. Aside from lifting heavy objects (because of the need for the sternum to heal) I quickly resumed nearly all normal activities without much pain or worry. By the time they called me for cardiac rehab there wasn't much point in going as I was walking 10 miles a day in the woods whacking on rocks (I'm a geologist so it's not as weird as it may sound).

Lesson #5 – Relax and Allow Yourself to Heal

Among my first thoughts upon waking up from the ICU were "What will happen to my classes and when can I go back to work"? Thankfully the University and my department acted quickly and I was relieved of all duties immediately. At the time I was a bit miffed but I became very grateful for this. It allowed me to let it go, rest, repair myself, and do some thinking. It may sound strange but I actually miss those days in late March last year when my only responsibility was to take a few pills, slurp some jello, and get up and walk in between some of the best napping I've ever had the pleasure to enjoy. And you know what? Much to my surprise the world didn't end, everything I did was magically assumed by others, and I realized how utterly replaceable we all are despite our propensity to feel otherwise. In retrospect, I probably could have physically managed to return to work in three to four weeks; however, mentally it would have been an unwise decision. It was much better to gradually get back into the swing of things over the summer with my fine research students.

Lesson #6 – Healing is More Than A Physical Process

Many people who have a heart attack or heart operation, and probably many other health issues, also experience depression. While I was ecstatic over how fast I was healing, I was completely oblivious to my mental state. I realized that I was a bit cranky, easily frustrated, and impatient, but figured it was all part of the recovery (or aging) process. It took my wife and a number of friends to gently point out to me that I may not be handling things as well as I thought. I am particularly indebted to friends, who I won't name for obvious reasons, who through their own martial, financial, or legal troubles spoke to me about seeking treatment for the mental part of the healing process. In my case all it took was a meeting with my doctor and a prescription for a mild anti-depressant and everything improved dramatically. I'm not sure if it's the medication or the trip to the brink of mortality but the little things that used to really bother me now are of little consequence and I don't waste my time thinking about them anymore.

Lesson #7 – Hearing From People was Wonderful Medicine

I'm a very private person and normally not very interested in attracting attention. However, I was overjoyed at all the messages, cards, and phone calls I received when I needed it the most. Hearing from family, friends, former students, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. was perhaps the best medicine of all and helped the healing process immensely.

Lesson #8 - Health Care

Here is where I get a little preachy. I am absolutely convinced that I am alive today because I had access to health care. If I was unemployed and couldn't pay or was uninsured I doubt I would have sought medical attention until I had a massive heart attack. Yes, I can be one stubborn and foolish individual when given half a chance. As it was, apparently, I could have died at any time and was simply lucky to get treated before something really traumatic happened. In addition, if I was uninsured or underinsured, and lucky enough to have survived the hypothetical heart attack, the debt from such an operation would likely have been crushing and served to compound the mental anxiety.

Most of us don't think much about health insurance until we, or someone we love, needs it. I find it unfair that I had access to some of the best medical care available (Burlington) while others may not, simply because of dumb luck or their employment or financial status. I hope we as a country can find a way to make medical care, especially preventative care, affordable and available for everyone.

Lesson #9 – Perspective

Some may ask, "What did you learn from this experience?" Heck we work at a college after all and someone might make me write an essay on it. If I had to sum it up, it would be one word - perspective. Coming face to face with your own mortality doesn't necessarily change one in mystical ways but it does serve to remind us that time is limited. That when all is said and done, our actions, those we have influenced and leave behind, and the things we have accomplished remain to reflect our lives. It's a powerful concept.

I also learned it is really easy to delude oneself, but I think there are plenty of other events in life that bring home that lesson pretty well. Thanks for reading. Let me know if I can help in anyway .


Jeff Chiarenzelli

Dr. Jeffrey R. Chiarenzelli is an Associate Professor of Geology at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. He teaches Mineralogy, Geochemistry & Dynamic Earth and his research interests are in Precambrian Geology & Environmental Science

Reprinted with permission from the author

Coming Events

Join members of the Senior Lawyers Section for dinner at the Magic Castle, a unique experience with excellent food served in an elegant Victorian setting, followed by a fabulous show in its Palace of Mystery. The world-famous Magic Castle is a private club for magicians which, for over 45 years, has been the showplace for some of the greatest magicians in the world.

For more information and to register for this event, click here.

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