Second Chance at Life

$4,773 of $25,000 goal

Raised by 30 people in 78 months
Shayne Zucker  CHICAGO, IL

See below for an update to my profile...

It's been a tough 10 years. In 2002, I suffered a massive heart attack at the tender age of 39. The heart attack was a total surprise, as there was no previous knowledge, or known heart issues in my family history. Four days after the attack, I went in for a triple bypass that was unsuccessful. Although still alive, I was only surviving because of the heart-lung machine that was breathing for me. That even, while still under, I was transferred to a different hospital (Montefiore Medical Center, in the Bronx), where I remained in a coma for 4 weeks. Apparently, while on the operating table, I also suffered a minor stroke, which caused me not to be able to breathe on my own.

I suddenly regain my ability to breathe on my own after 4 weeks, and woke up soon after. However, the stroke completely scrambled my brain to the extent I could not read, see straight, walk on my own or even dial a telephone. Furthermore, I was on an LVAD machine to beat my heart for me. However, I was fortunate enough to receive a new heart just a few weeks later and left the hospital just a few weeks after that.

But this episode left me with a host of other issues. Because of the stroke, I was (and have been) unable to keep a full time job. I have four children, while deeply in love with them, possess numerous challenges. Two of my kids suffer from Aspergers Syndrome, my eldest child (my daughter) has been plagued with a number of physical issues and has a severe anxiety disorder (as does my youngest). All four of them have had to attend special needs programs in school. As they get older, the programs available to them is become more scarce and expensive.

My ex-wife has the awesome responsibility of co-raising the children on a school secretary's income. But that also includes the amount of time she needs to take off work to tend to numerous appointments (doctor, therapist, OT...) that I can't do myself.

The past two years have only added to the stress. When I was 20, I herniated a disk in my lower back that was finally operated on 18 years later (in 2000). However, arthritis set in badly and now, because of the stress on the disks that were fused during the surgery, the disk about the fusion has now herniated as well, making walking very difficult. In addition, just a month ago, I needed (and had) a full knee replacement. Added to all of this is an even more painful issue, gout. Because of my transplant (and the toxicity of the daily medications), I am unable to take any proactive medication to combat this very painful disease. Although I have dealt with a great number of painful issues, nothing seems are excruciating as a gout attack. Needless to say, I walk in pain daily, which makes working even my part time job a really tough challenge.

As I rehab my knee, I am hoping to return to at least a part time job. I am receiving disability, thankfully. But raising 4 kids with special needs has become a formidable task is becoming increasingly difficult. I am by no means a spendthrift. I live in a tiny one bedroom apartment (when my kids are by me, which is often), they sleep on a fold out couch in the living room). Their other home is their mother's small 3 bedroom apartment that eats up close to her salary itself.

I do not expect to be able to become debt-free. The costs associated with just the heart transplant are astronomical. I am thankful that Medicare takes care of most of my medical bills. But there are so many other expenses that are not covered that it eats a large chunk of whatever income I have. I do not wish to stop working and do not want to just rely on the goodness of others. But any help I receive is necessary and greatly appreciated.

My financial goal is to be able to get the proper schooling and placement for my children, as well as assistance in making ends meet. I realize the dollar amount is nowhere close to the total costs. But I feel bad enough having to ask for any amount. Thank you very much for reading this and G-d bless.

By the way, if you feel the need to confirm what I've written, please see my website (and story) at

Update (November 25, 2012)

Unfortunately, I was recently hospitalized as my kidneys failed. It wasn't something I didn't eventually expect, but I had hoped I had more time. However, I have had to begin dialysis and so far, I'm not adjusting too well. I have been told I will eventually get used to it and feel more myself, but I do fear this is the new normal. For right now, I am unable to drive, due to constant dizziness and have barely been able to stomach food or drink (which is actually not a bad thing as too much fluid causes other problems). 

It does get a bit overwhelming and I don't know where else to turn.

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Update 13
Posted by Shayne Zucker
57 months ago
Dear friends, May has turned into an exceptionally difficult month for me. I thank all of you who have donated money to help me in my time of need and once again am turning to you for financial assistance.

It breaks my heart to do this because I never, ever thought I'd be in a situation like this. I want to work and take care of myself, and even help others if needed. But I've been given challenges I would never wish on anyone.

So please, if you have the means to help me, please consider donating. Thank you so very much.
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Update 12
Posted by Shayne Zucker
57 months ago
Good morning everyone,

I am sure many of you are tired of hearing from me already. After all, I seem to constantly be in need and while many of you sympathize, there comes a point where it just gets old.

I get it, really I do.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure where else to turn sometimes. I never expected to be in the position I'm in at 51 years old. I may not have struck it rich in the world, but I did always work hard enough to support my family and sometimes give back to friends in need. And what I couldn't do financially for someone, I would do personally. I'm not looking for payback here, that isn't my point. I'm saying this because I feel awful having to turn to my friends (and sometimes their friends) for assistance so often over the past couple of years.

If it were up to me, I would be working and earning my own keep. But due to forces beyond my control, I can't work consistently and sadly, can barely function at times physically. When I'm not medicated (with heavy narcotics) I can hardly get out of bed and move around. But when I am medicated, the pain often diminishes, but my cognitive abilities are shot to Hell (ie. I'm too stoned to do anything). It's a vicious cycle that I can not seem to shake.

On Tuesday, I went to see my pain management doctor to review my latest MRI. For some reason, though, the MRI did not offer a compelling reason for me to be in so much pain. It did show narrowing in the spine and a few spots where there were significant nerve compressions. However, nothing showed why the pain would be so severe - and between you and me, it is quite severe.

This led her to two assumptions: #1 - the pinched nerve (the symptoms clearly reflect a herniated, or "slipped" disk) is in a spot that is hidden in MRI, perhaps because of the angle of the film, or because it's behind something that's blocking the spot. The doctor said that is possible and she's seen that before. But it isn't common and she sees no evidence of it.

The second theory, which actually makes sense to me, is more complex. Over the past 15 years, I have had numerous surgeries (2 back surgeries, 3 open heart surgeries, a transplant, stomach hernia operation, 3 major colon surgeries, 2 arm/fistula surgeries and a knee replacement operation), as well as too-many-to-remember invasive procedures - everything from biopsies, angiograms, arthroscopic knee surgeries, catheter replacements...). Because of these procedures, my nervous system is on overdrive. Even the smallest pinch in a nerve is a cause for tremendous pain. I believe this is what Fibromyalgia is all about.

What this means for me is that I have a heightened sense of pain when faced with it. It means that when someone hurts their back and the pain would be at 5, with me the pain is 10. It also explains why I can take 4mg of Dilauded every 4 hours, wear a 50mg Fentanyl patch and take a 5mg tablet of Flexiril muscle relaxer and STILL only get my pain level to "tolerable." Most people, when given just 1mg of Dilauded are knocked out for 2 hours. I took those doses Tuesday night, along with 10mg of Ambian and 50mg of Trazadone (both are sleep aids, although Trazadone os also a mood stabilizer) and still couldn't fall asleep until 5am because of how much pain I was in.

On the good news front, I also saw my stomach surgeon yesterday. It was for my final followup following my stomach surgery in October. He reiterated again how surprised he was that he was able to reverse my colostomy, considering everything against the odds. But, he also said my stomach is completely healed and I no longer need any followups. That was great to hear!

Again, my point of these updates is not to give you a sense of guilt. For one thing, a number of friends and acquaintances have asked me for updates and this seems the best place to write it. But I won't lie to you. Part of this is a plea for financial assistance. I'm supported only by what I receive in disability and often find myself out of money by the third week every month. I do not live high on the hog at all and have very few bills to deal with. I wish there were other options, for instance finding a job I can actually do consistently. But between the chronic, constant pain, dialysis and exhaustion (I wear out just walking around the grocery store, or just going up or down the stairs), I am still not capable of working.

Please, if you are not in any position to help, I still greatly appreciate your prayers and blessings. But of you are fortunate enough to help, consider helping me. It does really pain me to ask. Honestly.

Thank you.
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Update 11
Posted by Shayne Zucker
57 months ago
Hello everybody!

I hope your holiday was festive and relaxing, and that you were able to find true meaning in your celebrations. Passover here was better than I expected, even though we only went out one night.

As April turns into May, I figured this one be a good time to update my progress. For starters, I finally had an MRI to help the neurosugeon find the cause of my leg and back pain. Ironically, the pain is as extreme and located exactly where it was when I initially herniated my L4/L5 lumbar disk. However, the MRI came back showing certain nerve compressions and some narrowing in the disk canal, it wasn't nearly enough to warrant such extreme pain!

That left him confused (me as well). I know the pain isn't just in my head and we both assume that either the culprit is hidden (or blocked from view), or there is something.

In the mean time, my ability to walk has decreased and my next move is to continue to be treated by my pain specialist (she is under the impression that I have Fibromyalgia), as I'm due for another epidural. In addition, she is going to refer me to a neurologist.

On Thursday, I am going to see Dr. Anderson, my cardiologist. Because of my nursing home stays and hospitalizations, I have not seen my cardiologist in well over a year. As far as I'm concerned, my heart has been doing great. But there have been some troubling symptoms that I had in the weeks leading up to my heart attack. Of course, that may be completely coincidental. But better safe than sorry, right? Regardless, Dr. Anderson will order me a stress test and an angiogram to test the heart muscle.

The only other big happening is that my teeth are dissolving due to the toxicity of my medicines. I have to have one tooth pulled and three others repaired (the crowns have developed holes). If there is one reason I hate being on Medicare, this is it. Their dental insurance stinks!

So it looks like a busy month upcoming. If there was ever a time you wish to help me financially, this is a good one. 80% of my dental bills are left uncovered and to have all that's needed done we're talking over $2,000. I will have to set up a payment plan with them (I already have one set up for my son). But that's still a lot of money for someone who can't work.

Let me thank you again for all your help and support and may Hashem bless you and yours.

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Update 10
Posted by Shayne Zucker
58 months ago
Dear friends, there is definitely some good news to share. After much begging and manipulating I have secured a day to have an MRI taken of my lower back. - Thursday, April 3rd. However, unlike the MRI machine at the University of Chicago, the one at Evanston is closed-end (when it's open-end, you have an opening at both ends, which takes away my claustrophobia). So I am very anxious and worried about that.

Then, on the following Tuesday, I'm scheduled for my 3rd (and last) epidural. When I had my last one (a month ago), the one area that it helped was the serious pain groin. However, that pain returned with a vengeance this past week. Hopefully, the epidural will alleviate the groin pain. I no longer have any optimism that my back and right leg will improve without surgery.

So it's a good thing I have set up an appointment with a neurologist the very next Thursday (April 10th). To be honest, walking even just from my bedroom to my kitchen, is very painful this past month or two. So while I am fretting this MRI, I'm absolutely thrilled to be finally being proactive in repairing the damage to my back.

Hopefully, I will be able to enjoy Pesach for a change.

Speaking of Pesach, I still have to shop for the holiday. Someone volunteered a cleaning woman to come in and get my apartment Pesach-ready. But that is only half the problem this year. I have no clue how I can afford the holiday. I have not been invited to a seder, although if I were, I'm rather sure I won't be able to get there. But of course, the seders are but one part of Pesach. Even though it's just Mayer and me, the costs are really exorbitant and I just don't think I canmake it without help.

If you've donated before, I truly thank you. Even if you have not been able to, thank you for considering me and for spreading the word. My ultimate goal is to be able to walk without pain and to eventually get off dialysis thru a kidney transplant. I have to focus on one step at a time, or risk being so totally overwhelmed.
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$4,773 of $25,000 goal

Raised by 30 people in 78 months
Created August 11, 2012
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noah lubin
52 months ago

lshana tova

Phil and mindy Dauber
56 months ago
57 months ago
58 months ago
Peggy Schwarzmer
58 months ago

I wish we could do are on my davening list. Hashem should bring you a Refuah shelaima!!!

Raimee Unger
59 months ago

Wish you lived closer, always thinking about you. Sending you healthy thoughts. xo

59 months ago
Susan Jablow
60 months ago

Shayne, I don't know how you've endured so much. Hashem truly does want you here, so please keep on fighting for a healthier life.

61 months ago
64 months ago
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