Her coat seemed sort of floaty, like it was made of parachute material. I remember that. And it was the color of ginger ale, kind of creamy with a hint of metallic gold sheen. She must have noticed me noticing it because she smiled slightly as she swept by. If memory serves—and it may not—I think I wanted to tell her how great it looked, but she was moving at a fairly brisk pace (was she late for a meeting? Was she anxious to get indoors before the soft drizzle turned into a hard rain?), and I got shy and chickened out.

A few blocks later, I saw her again, only now she was crumpled on the sidewalk. A guy was putting his backpack beneath her head. A woman was going through her bag for identification. Somebody else was calling an ambulance. A perfume sample from Henri Bendel rolled out of her pocket and a shoe had fallen off her foot. I don't know why that matters to me but it does. She wasn't young, but she wasn't old, either—mid-50s would be my guess. The paramedics said it was a massive heart attack.

This entire event probably lasted seven or eight minutes, but it has stayed with me for more than 20 years. I just keep seeing her shimmering coat fanned across the sidewalk with backpack guy kneeling on it as he holds her hand. I try to make it make some sense, I try to fix it, I try to forget it—but I can't.

Why is a 50-something woman walking down the street one minute and lying in it the next? And, at the risk of sounding like I'm auditioning for the Bee Gees, my real question: How do you mend a broken heart?

I know exactly where to get the answer. With one call to Dr. Mehmet Oz, I'm invited to see for myself on the fourth floor of New York–Presbyterian Hospital/ Columbia University Medical Center.

What it's like to step inside the OR with Dr. Oz


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