Councilman, family especially thankful this holiday season

Gelfound continues
to recover from
massive heart attack

Staff Writer

Gelfound continues
to recover from
massive heart attack
Staff Writer

CHRIS KELLY staff Bill Gelfound and his wife, Ina, are thankful for his recovery after he suffered a massive heart attack over Labor Day weekend.CHRIS KELLY staff Bill Gelfound and his wife, Ina, are thankful for his recovery after he suffered a massive heart attack over Labor Day weekend.

SEA BRIGHT — Saturday, Aug. 30, dawned as the start of what promised to be a spectacular Labor Day weekend for Councilman Bill Gelfound and his wife, Ina.

Gelfound began the day with a committee meeting in Borough Hall, then went to Monmouth Beach with Councilwoman Dina Long for breakfast. Ina Gelfound was having breakfast with friends at Steve’s, a popular cafe in Sea Bright, and waiting for her husband to join them.

Gelfound and Long finished their breakfast and headed to their respective cars.

"I was going to meet my wife for a quick cup of coffee and then had another meeting to go to with Dina and Maria (Council President Maria Fernandes)," he recalled. "As I was driving down the highway, I started to get the attack."

It was the beginning of a massive heart attack that would bring Gelfound to death’s doorstep. The miracle of his recovery has given him extra reason to be thankful this holiday season.

Gelfound said he managed to call his wife on his cell phone as he was driving up Ocean Avenue and she immediately came out of Steve’s and waved and yelled to members of the First Aid Squad across the street who, he said, happened to be at the First Aid headquarters because they were organizing to have a fund drive at the Rumson bridge that day. Ina Gelfound said because there is no cell phone antenna near Sea Bright, it is almost impossible to use a cell phone in the center of town. The fact that his call reached her was the first part of the miracle they shared.

"I ran out of the cafe to try to catch the call," she said. "It was Bill. I casually asked if he wanted me to order him breakfast. He calmly responded, ‘No, I don’t feel well.’ There was no urgency in his voice and I thought Bill was going to tell me had a headache or a flu. I asked what was bothering him and his two-word response — ‘chest pain’ — sent me into instinctive action.

"I knew Bill was having a heart attack," she continued. "I asked if he could get to the First Aid building and he said he would try."

"It took me just a couple of minutes to get there," Gelfound said, picking up the story. "The doctors couldn’t believe I was driving. I collapsed just as I drove up. They pulled me out (of the car) and put me in the ambulance."

Ina Gelfound said her husband was in a "horrific" state.

"It looked like he was sitting under a faucet of running water," she said. "Sweat was pouring off his body. He was clutching his chest, breathless and in severe pain."

The Gelfounds said the First Aid Squad members recognized they couldn’t wait for the paramedics so rushed him immediately by ambulance to Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank.

"They got me into the hospital just in time," Gelfound said. "All heck broke loose when I got there. I coded five times. I had to be on a respirator for 10 days. I got pneumonia. I was unconscious for two weeks. The director of the emergency room at Riverview said I couldn’t get any worse. They were really afraid of losing me those first few days.

"With the kind of massive heart attack I had, most people don’t make it," he explained. "They call it a ‘widow maker’s’ heart attack. So I’m very, very lucky."

The Gelfounds credit the care Gelfound received at Riverview from Dr. Howard Rubenstein, director of the emergency room, and Dr. Joseph Clemente, the cardiologist on call that day, along with a new medicine, TNK, with saving his life.

"Upon arrival at the emergency department, I heard Bill moaning with excruciating pain and trying to respond to the ER team asking him how long he had the pain," Ina Gelfound said. "He said about a half-hour. That was the last sound we heard from Bill. He arrested and the team had to use the defibrillator multiple times to shock his heart back to a rhythm and get him breathing again."

TNK, a product of Genentech, was administered and in 10 minutes started to take effect, she said.

The window of opportunity for TNK to be most effective is 90 minutes, according to Gelfound.

After Gelfound was stabilized, he was moved to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune for further treatment.

Another part of the miracle, Gelfound said, was that he was found to have suffered no damage to either the heart or the brain as a result of the attack. Thirteen days after the heart attack, he underwent a cardiac catheterization and angioplasty and three stents were inserted into two of his arteries. He said two arteries were closed when he arrived at Riverview with the heart attack.

Gelfound said the doctors have been delighted with his recovery.

"My recuperation has been phenomenal," he said. "They kind of shake their heads and say you’re doing absolutely wonderful for what you went through.

"It changed my life around," he added. "It gave me a new way to look on things."

Gelfound said he now takes vitamins and an aspirin every day and watches his diet. He’s cut out all red meats, all poultry and all fish for now, although he doesn’t think he will remain a total vegetarian forever, and has lost 50 pounds. He is enormously thankful to all the doctors and nurses at the two hospitals who got him through the crisis and believes luck, a will to live and hundreds of people praying for him also contributed to his recovery.

Gelfound doesn’t remember much about his hospital stay, but one kindness particularly stands out in his mind. He said a nurse would feed him ice chips when his mouth was full of tubes and he couldn’t eat.

To show their appreciation for all the doctors and nurses, the Gelfounds held a party for "A Celebration of Life" at the Oyster Point Hotel in Red Bank on Nov. 15 to raise funds for the emergency departments and critical care units of all three Meridian Health system hospitals — Riverview, Jersey Shore and Ocean Medical Center in Brick. The medical personnel and Sea Bright First Aid Squad members were the Gelfounds special guests at the affair.

Since returning home, Gelfound has been attending a cardiac rehab program at Riverview as an outpatient and attended his first council meeting since his heart attack in late November. He said he probably will go back to work in January and work another year or two and then retire.

The Gelfounds, who both turned 60 this year, have been married for 40 years after going together since grammar school. They have four grown children and two grandchildren with another on the way. One daughter, Shawn Glassman, lives with the couple in their Sea Bright condo with her year-old son, Ethan, while her husband is working out of town and they are between houses. Their son Craig is a sports medicine physician in Los Angles. Daughter Kelly Gelfound also lives in California while daughter Wendi Gelfound lives in New Mexico.

The whole family, along with Gelfound’s brother-in-law — Ina’s brother —- and his family met in San Diego for "a very, very special Thanksgiving," Gelfound said.

The Gelfounds are returning to California in January as the guests of Genentech to speak in San Francisco and tell their story of how TNK saved his life.

"Bill is the poster boy for (the TNK) miracle drug," Ina Gelfound said.

"I couldn’t be any luckier," Gelfound said. "The doctor (Rubenstein) told me, ‘You came as close to meeting your maker as anybody can come.’ He told me I’m the reason why he comes to work every day, that if he can bring somebody back like me, it’s worth it, given all the crazy things that go on in the ER.

"A lot of people are telling me there’s a reason why I was saved," Gelfound added. "There are things for me to do. Maybe for Sea Bright."

Gelfound said he expects to bring forward his plan to develop a pool complex on the beach front in the new year and to work with the council and incoming mayor Jo-Ann Kalaka Adams on providing more space for borough offices, the municipal court and the Police Department.

"We really want to do some major moves to make the town a sharper place," he said. "So we have a lot of work to do on the council in the next couple of years.

"I’m really glad," he said, "that I’m around to be a part of it."