DeFede Was Hours From Death | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

DeFede Was Hours From Death

You probably have no idea how close we were losing to losing the great Jim DeFede.

Yesterday morning, the former Miami New Times and Miami Herald columnist turned radio host and TV commentator explained in detail a very recent and very harrowing medical ordeal on his 940-WINZ morning show. He'd been missing in action on the radio since Tuesday last week. On Sunday, Joan Fleischman reported in her Miami Herald gossip column that he had undergone surgery early Wednesday morning to drain fluid that had been building up around his heart.

Sounded fairly serious, but DeFede, now recovering at home, let his listeners know just how dire the situation was during a phone interview with his producer/fill-in Nicole Sandler on Monday morning.

For anybody who has followed DeFede's amazing work and knows how important he is to South Florida's media scene, his words were just flat chilling. What follows, after the jump, is the story:

For several days, DeFede had been struggling with shortness of breath. By Tuesday morning last week, he knew it was extremely serious.

"I felt lousy and I couldn't walk very far without wheezing," he explained, adding that during Tuesday's radio show that he knew his voice "was different and it was shallow and i couldn't get a good breath."

Later that day DeFede, whose silhouette is Hitchcockian, went in for an echocardiogram, which is basically an ultrasound of the heart, at a medical office at Mercy Hospital. What the lab technician saw had him running for DeFede's cardiologist, Dr. Glenn Barquet.

"Within three minutes Barquet comes in and he's out of breath," DeFede said.

The cardiologist told him that he could be "moments away from death" and that he wasn't going anywhere but the operating room. There was a massive buildup of fluid in a sac around his heart, so massive in fact that it was putting pressure on not only his heart but his lungs, which explained why he could barely breath. It was so massive, in fact, that it was just a matter of time before it crushed his heart and killed him in instant fashion.

Here's how DeFede recounts what Barquet told him:

"It's very, very serious. Another 24 hours and you would be dead ... I can't tell you if it's going to happen in two hours or 12 hours but it's going to happen very soon."

Barquet personally wheeled him to the OR, where he sat for hours waiting to go under the knife. Imagine that -- he's sitting there thinking his heart could be crushed at any moment. At about 1 a.m. he started getting chest pains, which he hadn't really felt before. Barquet and the medical team stepped up their efforts. At about 2 a.m., he underwent surgery. Dr. Romualdo ''Peter'' Segurola Jr. ran a catheter under his ribs, into the sac, and drained 1.4 liters of fluid from around his heart.

1.4 liters. Think about that for a second. Think about carrying almost a two-liter bottle of exta liquid around in your chest. Of course he was close to death. Jesus.

Thankfully, the surgery was a success. He says he feels great and that he's motivated to get healthy. And the good news is that his heart, despite the extra weight he carries, is strong and healthy. The fluid was the result of a viral infection. In effect, because of the quick work done by Barquet and the lab technician (DeFede was trying to get his name), he has gotten another go at life and expects to return to his show full-time next week.

"This is an incredible reminder that I have to take better care of myself ... that's as good a slap in the face as I need ... a great reminder that I need to lose weight."

Do it, Jim. The few times I've seen you socially and the handful of times I've been on your show makes me feel like a friend. So it's personal. But more importantly, this place needs you. It needs your voice, your institutional knowledge, your wit, your reporting ability, the whole package ... minus the extra poundage.

Get in a program. Document it on the show. Hell, if Oprah has taught us anything it's that such things can be good for ratings. Just do it, brother. It's gonna save your life.

(Here's links to DeFede's interview on WINZ -- part 1 and part 2 -- and a link to Fleischman's column in the Herald).