David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]


I’m fine.

It turns out there is nothing wrong with my heart. Indeed, thanks to the excellent health care that my privilege provides, I know for a fact that my heart is in good shape.

I have unfettered access to an awesome doctor. I can call Robbie on a Sunday afternoon to discuss a health concern. I never have. But I could. I have Robbie’s cell number. He would take my call. We have been friends since elementary school and have gone camping together over the years. Not many people are good friends with their doctors. I’m pretty lucky.

I am also absurdly fortunate in that I get to exercise regularly. I am not forced to work two jobs or debilitating hours. My labor doesn’t wear me down or expose me to toxins. Basically, I sit in a comfortable chair in the air conditioning talking to nice people all day. I live in a neighborhood where it is safe to run at crazy hours. I can afford to buy healthy food. There is an inexpensive gym close by. And I have good genes. Both my parents lived to be 94. Another example of my charmed life.

But I did have a health scare last year. An Echocardiogram suggested that I had low exercise tolerance and that a major artery was occluded. Surgery seemed necessary and immediate. Replacement valves were discussed–cow, pig, cadaver. Lengthy recovery was mentioned, lost income, pain medications, and physical therapy. “You’re going to be fine,” one of the nurses suggested. “But get your affairs in order.”

Surgery? Update your will? Intensive care? Opioids for pain? Weeks of PT? I was frightened.

But back to my advantages. Did I mention that one of my relatives in the Chief Medical Officer of the largest hospital in the Southeastern United States? Mark didn’t think the results of the Echocardiogram were correct. You don’t have shortness of breath; you don’t get dizzy when you stand up. And you only get tired when you have run more than ten miles. You don’t have symptoms. So Mark suggested a second Echocardiogram. I figured that it would take several weeks to schedule the procedure. Instead, my cousin picked up his phone. “Stacy?” he said. “May I come downstairs with my cousin? Fifteen minutes? Yes, that would be fine.”

So Stacey hooked me up to a million-dollar machine. Her interpretation of the results was clear: My heart functions like that of a man 20 years younger. There is no blockage of any kind never mind one that would require emergency surgery. Just to make sure, Mark also considered the outcome of the test. My cardiologist cousin agreed: no blockage; healthy heart.

I was so pleased and grateful about not needing surgery that I forgot all about the first Echocardiogram from the place that Robbie had recommended. But Robbie didn’t forget. He was annoyed. Robbie had referred dozens of patients over the years so he called the owner. Robbie had two ideas, neither of which made him happy. Robbie thought that the technician had egregiously botched the test. Or, even worse, that my results were switched with someone else’s, someone whose heart truly was bad.

When Robbie called, the owner of the facility was defensive rather than apologetic. “We do the best we can,” he began. “Can you imagine how many of these procedures we do every day? Our volume is incredible.”

“Oh, I’m going to help you with that,” Robbie said.

Robbie is never going to refer to that man or that facility again.

If indeed I did get somebody else’s results, I feel badly. Not for me. I’m just glad that I don’t need open heart surgery. I’m concerned about the person who actually does have a bad heart–David Latschuler or Davis Altschuler or somebody else whose name is similar to mine. This guy with a comparable spelling thinks that his heart is okay. Because he mistakenly has my results. I hope he gets the care that he needs.

I also feel badly for the guy who owns the Echocardiogram place. He should have apologized copiously to Robbie. He needed to stand up, admit his mistake, and try to make it right. Being defensive cost him a bunch of referrals.

Because no one cares how hard you work. When you make a mistake, you have to own it. Excuses are like digestive systems. Everyone has one; nobody wants to hear about yours. “Doing the best you can” is not nearly good enough when someone might have their chest sliced open as a result.

What does the owner of the facility that gave me the wrong Echocardiogram results have to do with parenting? Only this: Your kids don’t care how hard you work either. They’re kids. They want your time and attention. They need your best game every day. They need you to get it right.

I appreciate how hard you work, how tough it is to get through the day. I know that you are frantic trying to fulfill your professional responsibilities so you can get out of the office so that you can frenetically snake through rush hour traffic to get the kids to soccer practice before somehow magically getting a healthy meal on the table, homework done, kids bathed, bedtime reading, and returning those last few work emails. I know how stressful your job is. I appreciate how hard you try.

But your kids don’t. They don’t get it. They see your work as something that you do for you. They don’t understand that the compensation for your endless hours benefits them. It never occurs to your children that they get to live indoors and have food to eat because of all the hard work you do.

Someday your children might be grateful–possibly when they are having similar issues balancing work and family a generation hence. But for now, your kids unequivocally don’t get it when you say, “I can’t toss a ball with you right this very second, I have a project due; my boss is a monster, there are three people who want my job, and I am stressed to the point of snapping.”

Your kids want time with you–this minute–not excuses. If your heart is as good as mine and your privileges are similar, I hope you will find a way to make the connection with your children a little bit more each day. After all, the future is uncertain. You want to be able to look back on fewer “I can’t right now” and more “let’s go toss a ball.” Because you never know when there is a pig, cow, or cadaver valve in your future.

Picture of David


3 thoughts on “Heartfelt

  1. Debbie Grygla

    “They’re kids. They want your time and attention. They need your best game every day. They need you to get it right.” Another great message, David! I always look forward to these.

    It was so nice to meet you when you came out to tour. And I’m glad to hear you’re still in good health. 🙂

  2. Martin

    “It turns out there is nothing wrong with my heart.”
    When I read this, I was initially sure you meant it metaphorically. And perhaps you did.
    Because as your cousin pointed out, it would be highly unlikely that you had cardiac blockages
    or valve insufficiency given your exercise routine (you get tired after running 10 miles rather than
    after walking up a single flight of stairs?).
    However meant, I’m glad you are reporting no imminent surgery, cardiac or otherwise.

    That takeaway being that just as there is no good excuse for such a serious mis-diagnosis, there is no good excuse for not spending time with ones children is a good lesson. Days, weeks and years go by quickly. And the love and attention missed as a child can not be made up later, even if both parent and child live long. Even if the child later encounters someone who might want to give the love and attention. The games of catch not experienced at age 5 to 9 can’t be made up at age 35 to 39. Or compensated for with time at the gym.

    Good essay. Thanks.

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