back to homepage
Interview with Dr. Harvey L. Slatin; December 11, 2002:
Thomas: Do you want to tell us the story about what you were telling me yesterday?
Harvey: Yeah. Uh… I first felt that I might have a guardian angel when I was taken to the Bassett Hospital for emergency surgery. The surgeries I’ve ever had before was I had two hernia repairs and I think I was 60 or 65 years old at that time and when I was 7 years old I went in and had my tonsils removed. But that’s about all the surgery I’ve ever had in my life.
The thing that made me think about having a guardian angel was also prompted by other things that happened in my life. One of the first things was my father who was a very strong and big man, was a very very good swimmer and when I was about 10 years old, he took me and my brother out swimming. And we were swimming then in Coney Island, which at that time was a perfectly good place to swim, of course today it is all polluted and swimming is forbidden on the Coney Island beaches.
While we were out there; we weren’t out very far at that point, maybe about 30 or 40 yards, we suddenly had a change in the weather and neither my brother Mattie nor I were really good swimmers at that time. As a matter of fact, we weren’t swimmers at all. We began to clutch at my father, and my father called for help. He brought my brother in and a lifeboat brought me in. I think I swallowed some water but not very much that I don’t think I passed out. But they did lay me out on the beach and took care of me.
That was the first time I may have had a guardian angel to look over me. Of course, being a scientist, I don’t believe in guardian angels, but anyway.
Thomas: Now at that time, did CPR exist, or was that not around?
Harvey: I can’t remember whether they had CPR or not. I don’t recall that.
The next time that I may have had someone looking over my shoulder, was when I went canoeing on Lake Cayuga, which is a lake outside of Cornell University. And while we were out there, the young lady said to me, “You better be careful the way you’re handling the canoe”, and I said, “You can’t turn this canoe over if you stood on it’s side.” Well, just as fast as I uttered those words, I then turned over, and there I was floundering in the water. I tried to grab onto this young lady who was a very good swimmer. She pulled away from me and managed to get behind me and she pushed me towards the canoe.
And I grabbed the canoe and I yelled for help and shortly after that they came out with a motorboat and brought us in to the shore. The young lady and I left and went back to Ithaca where it was the first time I had drank alcohol. We stopped in at a bar and she ordered a Scotch and Soda and I didn’t know what the heck was all of this, so I just had the same thing. That was the first time that I had anything to drink that was an alcoholic beverage. At that time I was 21 years old.
I’m going to have to backtrack. After we had this experience at Coney Island, my father had me take swimming lessons and my brother take swimming lessons too. Everybody in my family, my father, my mother, Sandy my sister, and my brother Mattie, were all good swimmers. I never became a good swimmer. And actually I became very much concerned about being able to swim and when Thomas was a little boy, I took him to the YMCA, where he learned to become a very good swimmer. I was very much concerned about that.
One other thing that happened was while I was at Cornell, one of the prerequisites to graduation was that you had to be able to swim, I think it was 100 yards, but it may have been 50 yards. The swimming pool at Cornell at that time only had one side you could walk on; the other side was just a blank wall. I can’t remember at that time whether the pool length was 25 yards or 50 long but you had to be able to swim it twice. So I imagine I had to be able to swim 100 yards. I managed to do it; I don’t know how I did, but I managed to do it so I was able to graduate.
Now coming back to my sudden need for surgery, I was doing some work for Kiwanis out at the Rexmere park and I was very uncomfortable and very much in pain. And finally I decided to leave and I drove to the Hitching Post, which is a restaurant in Grand Gorge where Thomas and Anne were having dinner with friends of ours, the Spinneys. When I arrived, I was desperately ill and in an enormous amount of pain and Thomas suggested that we go to a hospital.
And Anne and Thomas drove me to the nearest hospital which was in Delhi.
Thomas: I recall that too. I was in the back seat.
Harvey: That’s right. And at Delhi, fortunately my normal physician was there and they examined me and had come to the conclusion that I had an aneurysm. And they thought that I was bleeding internally.
There was no facilities for doing any surgery at Delhi, and so they took me into an ambulance and took me to the emergency room at Bassett in Cooperstown. Thing is that I learned later is that the doctor told my wife Anne and probably Thomas that he didn’t have any hope for me surviving. They thought that I was going to die. I arrived at the hospital and I was listening to an argument that was going on between the surgeon and another doctor. They wanted to give me an MRI and the doctor said that they didn’t have time to do that and they rushed me into surgery… into the operating room.
I woke up the next morning and learned that they had cut me open from about the bottom of my neck down to my testicles. Luckily enough they didn’t go any further or I would have been emasculated; had they gone any higher, I would have had my throat cut.
The surgeon had opened me up and had examined all the organs that were available to sight and came to the conclusion that I did not have an aneurysm and that the low blood pressure that had been exhibited at Delhi was just an anomaly. At any rate the the surgeon was very much concerned that he might be sued, but I assured him that with the data he had available, I wasn’t going to, but he did exactly the right thing and that I wasn’t going to sue him at all.
A few years later, I did have my gall bladder removed, and since then, of course, I haven’t had any problems at all. But then, under little circumstances of having my life saved, I began to reflect on the fact that I had probably a guardian angel. I’m sure that not everybody in the world has a guardian angel since there just wouldn’t be enough to go around. Or if they did have guardian angels, they had so much work to do that they contributed their activities among many people on which days they would be available during the time for an emergency for everybody. And this is what my situation is.
Do I still believe in guardian angels? I don’t know it’s just that I have been very lucky on numerous occasions and have survived a lot of incidents where I should have or could have been killed. Most of them having to do with automobile accidents that never happened, but certainly life threatening. And so I’ve continued to think that maybe I do have a guardian angel and if he wants to stick around or she wants to stick around and take care of me, I’m not going to have any objections.
Anything else you would like to add, Thomas?
Thomas: How many car accidents have you been in?
Harvey: Car accidents…
Thomas: I remember when you used to drive you were really…
Harvey: I was very… Well I learned that I was a bad driver when I was driving with you. Now how many accidents have I had…? I’ve never had an accident where anybody was injured. I had two near accidents when I fell asleep and some cosmetic damage to the car. I’ve had… I would say… I was once hit in the rear by someone who ran into me. I once dented somebody’s car on a street off the tennis courts, which was just a case of bad driving which was again just minor cosmetic damage. I never really had any accidents. But again, it’s my guardian angel wishing that these things just wouldn’t happen.
One of the scariest things I had happen took place I was going to visit a friend who lived in Oneonta and for some reason or another, I couldn’t see. I found myself coming down a steep hill and I was absolutely on the left hand side of the road and there were cars coming at me. Fortunately, they swerved, went into the right hand lane and passed me, and then I of course moved on over to the proper lane. But I certainly could have been killed or somebody else would have been killed with me because I was coming down there probably 40 miles per hour anyway.
When I got to my friends house and told him what had happened, he came downstairs with a rag and wiped off the dirt off the lenses of my headlights and sure enough I could see after that.
Anything else I can think of where my guardian angel was there?
Oh yes, I can think of her bringing or he bringing Anne into my life after my first wife died. And that of course saved my life the other thing was that I was able to father a child at the age of sixty-four, which was no means an accomplishment and maybe a guardian angel was there with me too.
Thomas: If we have some time, I think I should get some details on your ex-wife, Yeffe. My fiance, Angie is very curious about your ex-wife Yeffe.
Harvey: She’s like Yeffe?
Thomas: Curious of.
Harvey: Oh, she’s curious. I thought you said she’s like Yeffe. She’s certainly not like Yeffe. She may have some of the talents that Yeffe had because Angie is very much into the Arts. Of course, Yeffe was a very famous artist and painter.