A Heart Attack, A Wedding & an iPad.

This morning around 2am Hawaii standard time, I got a call from a familiar number… Kaiser Permanente Moanalua. I thought it was my mom (who is a nurse there) wanting to talk story on her way home from work so I let it go to voicemail. My husband said “aren’t you going to listen to it?”, I replied – “nah, its my mom, probably nothing.. “. But for some reason, we were both wide awake at this point and so we listened to the voicemail. To my surprise, it was not my mom, but Josie (my fathers girlfriend) who left a very brief voicemail saying “Your fathers having a heart attack, we’re at Kaiser in the ER, just wanted to let you know.”

My heart stopped for a second and I felt like I was in a dream. Wait – my dad? I just took him up Kokohead two weeks ago (granted he only made it halfway) and to Bikram Yoga last week (granted he looked like he was going to pass out – although that isn’t abnormal for Bikram Yoga as it is 107 degrees or so in there).. but my dad – No way. This isn’t happening.

My husband & I rushed down to the hospital and waited in the waiting room for over 3 hours in the middle of the night on an otherwise ordinary Tuesday morning with my fathers girlfriend and his brother while he was in surgery.

It’s funny how life’s worries become completely unimportant when something like this happens. Financial struggles, the not so good economy, the house cleaning that needed to be done, the roof leak – suddenly none of that matters. It got me to thinking.. what if this had happened a month ago at my wedding. He wouldn’t have been able to walk me down the isle.. or have our father daughter dance or lead my flashmob that I made him practice for weeks. Or what if it had happend to my husband or my sister?

Sometimes we forget about the important things. Weddings especially tend to do that to you. The planning, the details, the financial costs, the table seating chart, the menu.. none of that really matters if the people who are closest to you can’t be there to share it with you. The celebration of starting a life with your soulmate is so much more than how beautiful, fun, and successful the event is. It’s really about sharing your love with your closest friends and family… thats it. It really doesn’t matter who is and isn’t in your bridal party or what favors you got your guests or who does and does not like the music that is playing – what matters is that those who are closest to you (you know – the ones who really matter) are there to share the love exchanged on this very special day.

Life: It is about the gift not the package it comes in.  ~Dennis P. Costea, Jr.

So, as I was sitting in the waiting room thinking about this I googled “Wedding & Heart Attack” and came across this touching article thoughtfully titled “A Heart Attack, a Wedding & an ipad“, posted in June 2011 in The Star-Toronto. It’s a short read – and I think you’ll like it..

A Heart Attack, a Wedding & an IPad
by Daniel Dale, Urban Affairs Reporter.

Arie Levit thought the pain in his chest was just bad heartburn. A cardiologist cousin who happened to be sitting with him knew better. He wanted to call 911.

“I’m not calling 911,” Arie said. “I’m not going to the hospital. I have a wedding.”

It was about 6 p.m. on the Friday before last. His 25-year-old daughter, Dana, was getting married in precisely 48 hours. He was having a heart attack at his kitchen table.

Paramedics arrived five minutes later. He was taken to York Central Hospital, and he was okay. But the doctor didn’t think he was healthy enough to attend the Sunday ceremony.

wedding, ipad, heart attackShe broke the news to him on Saturday morning. He cried more than his wife of 34 years, Mila, had ever seen him cry. Then Dana’s fiancé, Darren Abenstein, drove to her Thornhill house to tell her the worst thing he’d ever had to tell her since they met as Camp Northland counsellors 10 years ago.

“Without even being able to look up,” says Darren, a 28-year-old teacher, “I just said, ‘He’s not going to be able to come to the wedding.’ And I look up, and she’s just — shattering.”

She had been angry that the flower she was planning to put in her hair came in ivory instead of the white she wanted. She had been irritated about a forecast of wedding-day thunderstorms. As she bawled on Darren’s shoulder, she cared only that she would never have a father-daughter dance, never have her father walk her down the aisle, never see him smile under the Jewish ceremonial chuppah.

“Everyone always talks about their wedding day being the best day of their lives,” says Dana, a soft-spoken doctor with an easy smile. “And I was just like, ‘Well, it’s not going to be.’ Because he wasn’t going to be there — and also because it wasn’t going to be the day I thought it would be. Everybody was going to think of it as a sad day.”

It wasn’t going to be the day she thought it would be.

Twenty minutes after Darren told Dana, he texted Robert Burko. Burko, a close friend of the couple, is a big-dreaming, big-risk-taking web entrepreneur. His own wedding was a Las Vegas extravaganza that involved impersonators of Gwen Stefani, Rod Stewart and Elvis. His idea for this wedding was grander.

Burko, 29, called the hospital to ask if Arie’s room had wireless Internet access. It did. He called Vaughan’s Bellagio to ask if the banquet hall had wireless Internet access. It did. And the plan was sealed.

Arie would “attend” the wedding after all. From his hospital bed. Via Skype. On an iPad.

Burko tested the iPad for two hours Saturday afternoon. He wrote a “Dear Drunk Rob” letter with simple instructions to his inebriated wedding-night self. He still got less sleep than the bride.

“Dana and Darren have been telling me all day that they love me. I have Dana’s mother hugging me, crying,” Burko says. “I’m thinkin’, ‘At this point, if this thing doesn’t work, this is like the worst thing I’ve ever done.’”

On Sunday morning, Arie, a 61-year-old computer consultant, took off his hospital gown and put on his tuxedo, cufflinks and all. Dana put on her dress. Outside emergency, without asking permission, they held a ceremony to sign the Jewish marriage contract. Then, with Rabbi Daniel Gottlieb and about 25 teary guests looking on, someone pressed play on a laptop, and they danced their father-daughter dance to a song Arie wrote for Dana and got recorded: “My Little Girl.”

Your day has come, my little girl, I know/This is a day your wishes will come true. . .

Said Gottlieb: “If you’re a rabbi long enough, you’ll get to see everything.”

Says Dana: “He didn’t even know what he was in for.”

More than 200 people filled the Bellagio hall Sunday evening for the ceremony. Dana and Darren’s grandmothers walked down the aisle, then Darren’s parents, then Darren.

Then Mila. Her son-in-law, David Tsivian, held her hand with his right hand. He cradled an iPad tightly with his left. And Arie, wearing his gown, 13 kilometres away, attached to machines that monitored his heartbeat and blood pressure and oxygen, “walked” down the aisle at the wedding of his little girl.

In the Apple commercial, “walking” would have been just as good as walking. In real life, it wasn’t quite. Tsivian took Arie to the chuppah so he could see Dana’s entire walk down the aisle. She was radiant, and he beamed, but he couldn’t hold her hand, and he ached.

But this was still a wish come true. Arie made eye contact with Dana and Darren under the chuppah, and they smiled and they cried. He watched Darren stomp on the ceremonial glass. He watched them kiss.

“Up until then,” says Dana, “I was so mad about everything. But then at the chuppah, I stopped being mad. That’s when I started to feel really lucky.”

During the traditional hora dance, a friend sat on a chair with the iPad, and Burko and others lifted Arie in the air, right beside Mila. During Dana’s speech, someone held him in front of the podium, and she told him directly how much she loved him. During dinner, Mila took him to every table — and, at one point, he called her on her cellphone with a request: “Would you please bring me to Table 6 so I can talk to my coworkers?”

Arie had just one complaint: the way the wedding ended for him. At around 1 a.m., only Dana and Darren’s drunk friends remained on the dance floor. Arie watched them intently. Then his wife approached the screen.

“Mila came,” Arie says, “and said, ‘It’s 1 o’clock. You have to go to sleep.’ I said, ‘No, I want to watch.’ She said, ‘No, it’s time to sleep.’ And she turned the iPad off!”

If you were super touched by this story, like I was.. check out the additional photos from their wedding here.

And just incase you were wondering – my dad is out of surgery, and doing fine. Two arteries were unclogged and one more that was 85% clogged will have to be worked on later. New meds, diet, & lifestyle may be in the works.. and a few more days in the hospital. But otherwise, he looked to be in good spirits joking with the nurses and telling us to go home already. Glad he’s ok, we’ll see when the test results come back just how bad the damage was.. but for now, its just another Tuesday – but feeling a little more appreciative, thankful and lucky for the friends and family who really matter.

family, heart attack, wedding, ipad

My dad, best friend, sister & I at my wedding in November


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