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The Night I Was ‘John Doe’


The Night I Was ‘John Doe’


I have always tried to reflect on the past, but not to dwell on it. That has not always been easy.

2016 ended as a year that stirred deep emotions for many of us, and, in some cases, a feeling of powerlessness (a feeling, definitely not a fact).

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that we hear about someone having a fatal heart attack every month. Well, to tell this story I must reflect back to 2016. This is my story of my massive heart attack and the night I was John Doe. This is not a “poor me” story, but instead a story of hope and faith and new purpose.

I recently wrote a note to a dear friend and shared this quote with her: “We cannot start the next chapter of our lives if we keep re-reading the last one.” 2017 is the year that I have consciously started a new chapter in my life. I have a new-added purpose that came out of living the last chapters as God presented them. I have been blessed with an incredible and unlikely life by most standards. However, now more than ever, I feel there is so much more I could and want to do with my life.

On January 19, 2016, I was just finishing my day in my Connecticut office, which is in a 200-year-old cottage in a very small charming New England town in the western part of the state. lt was about 6:30 when I suddenly felt this rush of heat from my neck to my face—no pain, just a very, very strange feeling coming over me and profuse facial sweating. Somehow, I knew in that second I was having a heart attack.

I had my closest friend, Tom, on the telephone and he said, “call 911.” He had been a paramedic in his earlier life and kept repeating to me “unlock the door,” “do not sit down,” “do not close your eyes,” and “stay awake” over and over again as I was fading in and out of consciousness. Then, we heard the paramedic’s sirens.

I remember them coming in and asking me if I could sit down. Then, the next thing I knew, it was four days later. I was now in intensive care hooked up to all types of life-saving apparatus. It was then I was told the story of how I was “John Doe” for hours.

Apparently, my heart stopped just as the paramedics arrived. In the urgency of the moment, I was rushed to the hospital without a detectable heartbeat, but also before my identity was able to be secured. Because of this, I was admitted to the hospital as John Doe. It took hours for Tom, with the help of the Connecticut State police, to confirm my identity and finally my sister, who lives in Los Angeles, was contacted. Finally, I became Michael diCesare again!

I was later told that the doctors broke protocol and worked to resuscitate me for 46 minutes. It was then that my heart finally responded on its own. This alone is a miracle as they customarily quit this procedure after 20 minutes. That they chose to continue is proof to me that God has another plan. They each asked my recollection of those 46 minutes and asked me if I saw the famous “white light.” I responded NO, but the good news was that I didn’t see flames, either.

I must say, the funny thing is that as 2016 began, I was determined to enhance my personal and professional life and to utilize my lifetime of experiences in a positive way. I can attribute much of this thinking to having been inspired by Architects of Change and Maria Shriver’s writings. As 2016 began, I wrote a couple of pieces for Architects of Change on staying relevant. I was determined to do so.

I was determined, but how was the question? I have spent my entire career making some of the most visible people in the world look their best as a hairstylist in the entertainment industry. As an entrepreneur, I developed and marketed state-of-the-art hair products and presented them on shopping channels around the world. For 20 years, I taught other people how to look and feel their best. However, now more than ever, I wanted to take my lifetime of experiences to another level. But God had another plan as the year started. Little did I know that my next course in life was about to begin that night I was John Doe.

My cardiologist at New York/Cornell Presbyterian confirmed that I will live the rest of my life, in his words, “with only 30 percent function” of my heart. I told him it was better than 0 percent function! My massive heart attack is attributed to accumulative STRESS. I have always worked out, ate well, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, actively rode my horses… Heck, I hardly even swore! I have always worked non-stop and then worked some more…yes my workaholic status was golden. However, now things are changing and it is up to me to decide what else I want to do with that 30 percent of my functioning heart.

I feel this is the time that, in addition to my work in the industry, that perhaps I can help people with life struggles that I have been familiar with.  After spending 33 years in a 12-Step program, and counting, I feel compelled there is more I could do to help others.

Addressing alcohol addiction and the staggering statistics of prescription drug addiction and heroin use in our society is my focus. I feel perhaps I can, even if in a small way, help make a difference.

It took being John Doe and having a massive heart attack to realize that now was the time to deepen my further purpose. Always remembering God has a plan. This revelation didn’t happen immediately, but after about 10 months into my heart attack recovery, I was asked to speak at High Watch Farm. High Watch is the world’s first 12-Step rehabilitation treatment center in New England.

As I was speaking to about 100 people, it all came clear to me. This was my purpose and as a matter of coincidence (or perhaps divine intervention), my chartered course was presented to me. I am now focusing on my new mission. I am currently actively involved at High Watch, as well as in developing and presenting alumni after-care programs. These interactive workshops will be addressing, in a positive way, how meaningful lives can be achieved and forgotten dreams can become reality without substance use.  We will also be focusing on understanding the devastating effects it has on families.

This is my opportunity to be giving back all that I am grateful for and hoping to make a difference. This truly engages my philosophy of “staying relevant” and most importantly, not to give up a minute before, or especially a minute after, the miracle.

ABOUT MICHAEL DiCESARE: After coifing Hollywood’s A list celebrity guests backstage at “The Late Show with David Letterman” for nearly 18 years working his magic on almost every major celebrity from Julia Roberts, Maria Shriver, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tony Bennett, Barbara Bush to Hillary Clinton, tending to the tresses of his well-heeled private clients, and launching an incredibly popular hair care line, the Emmy Award-winning stylist Michael diCesare has become a celebrity in his own right and the go-to expert for not only styling hair and caring for hair, but sharing how we can all put our Best Look Forward in our daily lives. Among others, diCesare has been a featured guest on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Today Show,” “The Bloomberg Report,” CNN and logging 10 appearances on the very popular “Style Challenge” on the BBC to name a few. diCesare raised the bar when he won an Emmy award for his work on a makeover special for Paramount Television. diCesare also has five “Emmy Certificates” for his work on the David Letterman Show. Recognizing his remarkable ability to help people look and feel their best, diCesare decided to bring his many years of expertise to consumers by creating his own hair care line. His goal was to help empower women by putting their Best Look Forward, encouraged by none other than media queen, Oprah Winfrey several years prior. The “celebrity-tested and approved” diCesare line of products was launched in 1994 at Harrod’s followed by Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales and Nordstrom. In 1995 he launched on the home shopping channels, recognizing this venue as the ultimate vehicle to demonstrate and teach his customers/audience how they can look their best. His products reigned for 18 years on networks such as QVC and HSN in the USA, as well as the U.K., Germany and Italy. Michael diCesare splits his time between New York City and Dutchess County, New York, where in particular he is able to indulge his love of horses and riding in some of the most beautiful countryside on the eastern coast. Follow him on Facebook and visit his website here.


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