Profiles in Giving
Of Hearts and Hotels:
Transplant Patient Puts New Heart to Work
By Peter Wortsman
Paul Broadhead, an eminent Mississippi developer, had his first heart attack at age 39. Twenty-three years, two more heart attacks, double and triple bypass surgeries, and multiple related health problems later, Mr. Broadhead, a self-described "hard livin,' hard drivin' man," was at the end of his rope. "My heart was so wasted, no other medical center would touch me with a 10-foot pole," he recalls.
"A New Heart and a New Life"
Despite the slim odds, Dr. Mehmet C. Oz and the surgical team at P&S decided to perform a heart transplant. "July the fourth, 1996, I had already reckoned with my maker," says Mr. Broadhead with a Southern drawl and a winsome smile, "but July the fifth I had a new heart and a new life. And I am eternally grateful to this amazing team of physicians and surgeons, to the institution that made it all possible, and to the individual whose heart I inherited."
Not one to lie low during his extended convalescence, his mind ever active, the man ranked among the top 10 shopping mall developers in the United States happened to be peering out his hospital window when he had an idea. "What do you mean there's no hotel?" he protested, when told there was no place nearby for visiting family and friends to stay. His solution: "I'll build one."
Plans are under way for the construction of a combined hotel-convention center-parking garage-movie theater at Columbia-Presbyterian on the site of the parking lot at 165th Street and Fort Washington Avenue. The new facility will not only serve the needs of patients and their families, but also will offer vital space for medical conferences and provide economic incentives and job opportunities for the community.
Catch the Dream
Paul Broadhead likes to compare his development dreams with a Native American notion called "Catch the Dream," whereby a brave would metaphorically catch hold of the dream of the future. He has built 15 operating companies involved in the development of land, timber and minerals, shopping malls, hotels, resorts, corporate retreats, and entertainment complexes. To these disparate interests, he now adds what he calls "the transplant business."
He has pledged $3 million toward cardiac transplant research at Columbia and contributed generously to the surgical management of heart failure. "I consider that just repayment," he says. "Without this heart I wouldn't be here. The most precious thing in my life is time. You can make money, but you can't make time. These outstanding doctors steal away their own time to give their patients more. They need all our encouragement and all our support."
A "Hands-On" Patient
Mr. Broadhead also hopes to apply his postop and convalescent experience to benefit future transplant patients. "You're so heavily medicated," he says, "your brain is not your own; it feels like you stuck your finger in an electric socket." He espouses a computerized regimen to systematize care and to help the patient cope with the bewildering transition back to normal life. "It's understandable that the surgeons and doctors are so busy trying to locate organs and save lives that they sometimes forget the mental factor." Still, he insists, medicine needs to focus on improving the quality of life immediately after the transplant. He sees heart transplant patients as belonging to a "special fraternity" and avows: "I want to do everything in my power to make their lives better."
To Paul Broadhead, who received an honorary degree this year from the University of West Alabama, philanthropy and investment go hand in hand. Actively involved in civic and charitable work, especially in the field of mental health, he also contributed to the building of the Meridian Friendship Center in Meridian, Miss. From supporting cardiac transplant research at Columbia to assembling the partnership to build a much-needed hotel for the medical center and the community, he is reinvesting the priceless gift of time and putting his new heart to work for the common good.