Letterman's Doctor Saves Parking Garage Worker Who Was Having a Stroke
UPPER EAST SIDE — The doctor who famously flagged David Letterman's heart problems has a new superfan — a parking attendant who he rushed to the hospital in the backseat of his car after recognizing stroke symptoms.
Errol Mair was reaching out to place a ticket on the windshield of a car at the East 63rd Street garage where he worked in March when he felt the jolt — then his left arm went limp.
“I was saying to myself, ‘Oh my God, I got a stroke,” he said. “And I was thinking about my kids.”
Mair, 66, who has been with Capital Parking for 36 years, has worked the early shift at the company's 470 E. 63rd St. location since 2008. His co-workers said he is well-liked by customers, many of the whom are doctors and nurses that work in the nearby hospitals on York Avenue.
After Mair felt the jolt, he called out to one of his co-workers, who helped him to a chair and ran for the manager.
“His eyes started rolling back in his head and his arm went limp,” said co-worker Elease Arnold, who called for an ambulance. After waiting for about 10 minutes, it had still not arrived, she said.
The garage’s manager, Eurold Principale, ran outside to try to find help and bumped into Dr. Louis Aronne, an internationally recognized obesity expert and internist at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell who parks his car at the garage every day.
“I had just seen him that morning and he was fine,” said Aronne, who also made headlines in 2000 as the doctor who diagnosed Letterman's heart condition. “He’s a very affable, talkative guy. Every day you see him and you have a nice conversation.
“I saw (the manager) running down the street and asked what was wrong. He said one of the guys was ill and could I help?”
Aronne saw that Mair was having a stroke and knew that any delay in treatment could irreparably worsen the damage. That's when he asked one of the garage attendants to pull his car around so they could load Mair into the backseat.
Aronne and Principale drove Mair to Weill Cornell’s emergency room a few blocks away.
“I felt we had to get him there as quickly as possible,” Aronne said. “We couldn’t take the chance that the ambulance would take more time. Every minute counts in that situation.”
An FDNY spokesman said the ambulance reached the address seven minutes after the initial call, but that EMTs could not find Mair. The spokesman added the 911 dispatcher called back and got a busy signal and that a few parking attendants at the scene were not aware of the situation when speaking to EMTs.
Another unit was sent to the scene after a second call for help, but by the time it arrived Mair had already been taken to the hospital, the spokesman added.
Once he arrived at the hospital, doctors gave Mair a dose of a drug that helps to dissolve blood clots, but he didn’t improve, his physician said. Next, they threaded a catheter through a vein in Mair’s leg to his brain and injected more of the medicine near the clot.
The second treatment did the trick, and Mair showed dramatic improvement.
Dr. Athos Patsalides helped to treat Mair and said that Aronne’s quick thinking may have saved his life.
“The treatments for stroke are effective only if they are done in the first three hours,” he said. “If the same treatment is done at two hours and 10 hours, it will have completely different results.”
A little more than two months later, Mair is making a strong recovery. Other than weakness in his left arm, he said that he feels fine — and very grateful.
Mair, a married father of four who lives in Westchester, is not sure if he will return to work, but his co-workers said everyone misses him.
"The customers all ask how he's doing, if he's coming back," Arnold said. "They all look for him in the morning."
Mair said many of his customers who work at the hospital stopped by to visit him and that some even called to check up on him after his release.
For now, he is focusing on his health, but said he misses his customers. There is one in particular he’d like to see again.
“I have to give Dr. Louis credit, because he’s the one that rushed me to the hospital,” he said.
“I would like to shake his hand and thank him again.”