At age 94, Sy, as his friends call him, is counting the days to when the COVID-19 pandemic ends and he can return to his social engagements, volunteering and travel. However, his very full life was nearly cut short due to a bad fall.
On Dec. 31, 2019, Sy was getting dressed to the nines for his active senior community's elegant New Year's Eve party. Realizing he was missing his cuff links, he stepped on a chair to retrieve them from their safe storage space high on a closet shelf. He lost his balance and fell, hitting his head. Not wanting to miss the festivities, he gathered himself and still attended the big shindig.
However, his friends in the community knew something wasn't quite right and, concerned for his well-being, called an ambulance the next morning. Sy was not at all happy, but after an urgent call to his daughter in New York, Sandra, who remembers talking to her "totally incoherent" dad, he was finally convinced to go to the hospital.
Creating community away from home
These friends knew that Sy would be angry with them for insisting he go with the EMTs. They had called an ambulance for Sy once before that month when he had taken another fall and he resolutely refused to be taken away.
But these were more than just friendly neighbors. These were the people who became his second family when he and his late wife, Beverly, first moved to the West Coast from New York, where Sy had a psychology practice and served as the executive director of a school district.
"We joined some of our friends who were already living in the community," Sy says. "It was the best move I've made. It's a wonderful place for seniors."
These friends ensured that Sy was cared for after his fall and immediately called Sandra and her brother, Robert, who both jumped on planes to reach their father's bedside at Sharp Memorial Hospital.
An emergency surgery and extraordinary recovery
"We were told Dad had experienced trauma to both sides of his head from the two falls," Sandra says. "He was bleeding on both sides of his brain and needed emergency surgery. We were warned it's a tough surgery, even for people far younger than my dad. We really did not think he would recover."
Sy's craniotomy surgery, performed by Dr. Richard Ostrup, a neurosurgeon affiliated with Sharp Community Medical Group, was a resounding success. With Robert and Sandra by his side, he was destined for a full recovery.
"I don't really remember my time at the hospital," Sy says. "But Robert stayed for several weeks and was at the hospital with me every day for 8 to 10 hours. He got to know everything that was going on - and everybody."
Sandra, who flew back and forth between New York and San Diego several times during his hospitalization, credits her brother for her dad's recovery. "He took such an active interest in my dad's care," she said.
Giving a gift for the gift of more life
She also credits the care her father received at Sharp Memorial, where Sy was in the ICU for a few weeks before being moved to a general hospital room to recover for an additional 2 weeks.
"The ICU team was amazing," Sandra says. "This was before COVID, so we were able to be with him. He got so much attention - the nurses were always there checking on my dad. I was actually surprised to see how much care he received - he wasn't just a number or an old man in a bed. We wanted to find a way to say thank you."
Seymour Schpoont enjoys time with his children, Robert (l) and Sandra (r), as he continues to recover from brain surgery.Sandra and Robert hoped to bring their father back to the hospital - this time as a visitor, rather than a patient - to offer their thanks in person, but COVID-19 has thwarted those plans for the time being. In the meantime, Sandra decided to make a donation to the Foundations of Sharp HealthCare to show their gratitude.
"My dad is a World War II veteran, a lovely person, the nicest man" she says. "Sharp saved a wonderful man and I wanted to let them know how grateful I am."
Looking forward to everything San Diego has to offer
Sy, now using a walker, admits that at age 94, he'd probably be using a walker even if the fall hadn't occurred. He continues to work on his balance at home and eagerly waits to be able to get back to his activities post-pandemic. He looks forward to going to restaurants, the theater and symphony, and everything else San Diego has to offer.
"My dad has a will to live and a high standard of living," Sandra says. "He's up to date on politics and technology, and he's still extremely social, though everything is virtual right now. And we video chat every other day. I feel so happy and so lucky to have that opportunity."
Born in 1926, Sy gets a kick out of the fact that he can keep in touch with Sandra and Robert by computer. "The first time I saw a TV was in 1939 at the New York World's Fair," he says. "To think we can now talk across the internet is really something."
Sandra, on the other hand, is most impressed that her father is alive and doing so well that they are able to have these regular talks, during which they discuss current affairs, culture, their social lives and their favorite TV shows. "I worried that the incoherent conversation I had with him as they were preparing to take him in the ambulance would be our last."
Her father agrees. "The people at Sharp saved my life," Sy says. "I am just delighted to be alive and have lots of life left to live."