Two days earlier, on the 8th, I’d walked
into the emergency room wheezing and with
severe chest pains. That morning I had left on
a mountain bike ride to Lake Lagunitas with
three friends. About halfway up steep Shaver
Grade, I felt incredible exhaustion, followed by
lightheadedness, violent nausea, chest pain and
eventually tingly fingers. Fortunately, I was able
to ride and walk down to the parking lot at Deer
Park school, where one of my friends threw
me in his car and raced me to Marin General.
I was immediately diagnosed as having had a
severe heart attack. My left anterior descending artery, the “widow-maker,” was 100 percent
blocked — a condition with a frighteningly high
mortality rate. I soon became the proud owner
of a stent valve and a new lease on life.
After the stent operation, when the nurses
left me alone with my thoughts in ICU, a voice
spoke to me. It was the voice of God, universal
energy, or maybe it was my subconscious. Yet I
had never heard those words before. They were
clear and direct. “Find your birth parents.” You
see, I’m adopted. I needed to know if heart disease runs in the genes.
LET THE SEARCH BEGIN
The first several weeks after my discharge were
spent psychologically and physically learning
how to deal with my new self as a heart attack survivor. On November 19, exactly six weeks after my
cardiac event, I went out socially for the first time
since then, to the Log Cabin bar in San Anselmo.
I ran into a woman who asked a lot of questions
about my heart attack and whether it was genetic.
When I told the woman, Christina Fitzgibbons,
that I was adopted, she grilled me about where I
was born and what my birthdate was.
The following morning, I received an email
from her. It included a table from the California
Birth Index — the official state record of births
— listing all the babies born in Marin County on
my birthday. There were five newborns and one
of them was listed as born to unwed parents.
Maybe that was me? Two days later Christina
and I went for a walk at Sorich Park and she
explained that she’s a genetic genealogist and
helps adoptees find their biological families.
She offered her help and I readily accepted it. I
told her what little I knew of my birth parents
based on what my parents had told me about
A SHOCK TO THE HEART
I stepped into a beautiful fall morning. Elated, I held a giant trophy a
friend had brought to my recovery room in the ICU of Marin General’s
cardiac wing. It was an unsubtle metaphor for beating death. My wife,
Liz, and two close friends escorted me to our car in the parking lot, and
then it hit me. It was my birthday. October 10, 2016. I was walking out
of the very same hospital in which I was born 47 years earlier.
I grew up in San Francisco, Denver and eventually Boston. In fact,
my parents still live in Massachusetts. It wasn’t until 1993 that I
returned to San Francisco, where I met Liz. In 2006 we moved to
San Anselmo with our two children, seeking excellent schools and
better weather. I have also lived in Brussels and Hong Kong, yet here
I was walking out of my birth hospital, on my birthday.