GHS teacher returns after a battle for life

A familiar face to many at Godwin, Psychology teacher Mark Seidenberg, was missing in the halls in November and December. As of Jan. 28, Seidenberg returned to Godwin after a long-term absence due to a medical emergency.

photo by Kaitlin Dunn

At approximately 5:30pm on Sunday, Oct. 13, Seidenberg had two rescue squads arrive at his house. Seidenberg has little to no recollection of the events that followed over the next seven to eight days. 

When he first went to the emergency room (ER) Seidenberg’s most concerning symptom was his right leg swelling and turning blue. At first, doctors needed to rule out any clot that could be in the leg causing the swelling because that clot could travel to the lungs, making it difficult to breathe.

Seidenberg’s daughter, Haylee Seidenberg, who is also a nurse, explained that Seidenberg’s health history put him at a higher than average risk for an aortic dissection.

“He has been monitored for a while, I’d say a year to a year and a half, with a weakening to his aorta. He was at a higher risk and, with added stress in returning to the school year, he had increased stress on the artery, which definitely put him at a higher risk,” said Haylee.

However, the diagnosis was not a blood clot. Seidenberg was found to have an aortic dissection. The aorta is what every artery stems from. An aortic dissection means that the largest artery in Seidenberg’s body was bleeding.

Once he received a diagnosis, Seidenberg went into an emergency 10 plus hour open-heart surgery. However, there were complications during the lengthy procedure.

“The surgery wasn’t able to completely stop the bleeding, so he was on the table for another two hours trying to stop the bleeding. It was so difficult because he was on blood thinner in the ER when they first thought it was a blood clot. The blood thinner made it extremely difficult to stop the bleeding after the procedure,” said Haylee.

According to his daughter, this surgery was the only option for treatment given the emergency situation. However, she stresses that Seidenberg was extremely fortunate in how quickly he was able to receive treatment.

“Normally, by the time an aortic dissection is caught, the person has already died. Getting him into the operating room in time was a huge feat and making it off the table was even luckier. He’s always had the best luck, and it seems it all came together at that moment,” said Haylee.

After the surgery was completed, Seidenberg was on a breathing tube and sedated for eight days. This is done to ensure that there is no additional stress put on the heart and lungs following the invasive surgery. Although he does not remember it, Seidenberg faced and overcame numerous complications following the surgery.

“He had a lot of complications with his kidney function and went on dialysis as well as a bad reaction to his blood thinner medication. There was even a moment they thought they would have to amputate his leg due to the swelling and lack of circulation,” said Haylee.

Once he came off of the breathing tube and dialysis, Seidenberg went into cardiac rehab and he has been in rehab since his discharge. He is monitored to make sure there are no sudden changes in his heart condition.

When he first returned home, Seidenberg had his share of obstacles to overcome, both mentally and physically.

“I would walk down my cul de sac once and be exhausted. Getting out of bed would hurt my chest. I was unable to drive, and I was completely dependent on others to take me anywhere I had to go. I missed walking my dogs. After a week at home, my wife took me to Godwin to drive around school like I had a learner’s permit. She wanted to be sure my right leg could move and brake successfully,” said Seidenberg.

After a few weeks at home, Seidenberg started to become involved in the activities he missed out on while in treatment and recovery.

“In early December I could do things around the house and not be completely tired out. I would go to the grocery store or other short errands,” said Seidenberg.

At this point, Seidenberg’s journey with his medical condition is far from over. He is on the road to a full recovery, but over the past few months, he has learned many lessons about himself and the value of life.

“Don’t take things for granted. Make sure the people close to you know how you feel. Enjoy the things you love to do; you never know if you will always be able to do them. I’m very lucky to be alive. As a student, is it the end of the world if you don’t make a team, get an A in a class, or not get into a certain college? Life continues, find something you enjoy doing and try not to dwell on the negatives,” said Seidenberg.

Now that he is back in the classroom, Seidenberg is determined to get back on track with his class, lessons, and preparation for the AP exam. His students have missed out on three months of preparation for the AP exam that Seidenberg would normally have done.

“I will get my students ready for the AP exam. I hope my strength holds up, but I will do my best to prepare them. I will adjust the plan as necessary, but their performance will be more about how they decide to do practice exams and study,” said Seidenberg.

Seidenberg is excited to return to Godwin and to get back to teaching.

“I miss the interaction with my students and the other teachers. I miss eating lunch with my group, sounds like elementary school, but it’s true,” said Seidenberg.

Students throughout the school are excited to have Seidenberg back in class as a teacher, mentor, and friend.

Junior Sophia Porter is in AP Psychology this year, and she is thrilled to have Seidenberg returning to the school.

“I am ecstatic to have Seidenberg come back. I think I can speak for everyone at Godwin, teachers and students alike, that we missed him immensely. If I had anyone else that early in the morning, I would not be having as much fun. Regardless of the substitute, there is nobody who can replace a man who has taught the class for 30 years. I am so glad to have him back,” said Porter.

The Godwin staff is also thrilled to have Seidenberg back.

History teacher Jonathan Lauder has known Seidenberg for about 14 years and Seidenberg served as a mentor to him when Lauder began coaching.

“He is such a positive impact on kids, and we really miss his spirit. Selfishly, my corner is kind of lonely without him. He cares about everything that happens in the school and would ask me how cross country and track were going,” said Lauder.

Math teacher Rob White is in Seidenberg’s lunch group. He has known him for 30 years. He knows him as a man who is very supportive of Godwin students and their interests.

“He goes to games, plays, concerts, and more when he knows that it would benefit one of his students. He seems pretty straightforward, like a typical coach who intensely cares about winning, dresses comfortably, and enjoys goofing around. But once you get to know him you realize that at the center of it all is love,” said White.

While his presence will be valued throughout the rest of this year, Seidenberg will retire at the end of this year. He would like to finish what he started with classes and tennis this year.

In his retirement, Seidenberg plans to continue to help people in any way he can.

“I will do the PREP program which means I will be in the classroom at least 28 days. I used to read to elementary classes before I started teaching early bird. While out, I’ve been to three different elementary schools as a story time reader. I love doing that,” said Seidenberg.

Seidenberg looks forward to his future both within and beyond Godwin, and he is grateful to have the opportunity to fulfill his plans and goals. He hopes that those who learn about his story walk away with one thing.

“Know there are a lot of people out there that truly care about you. You are never alone,” said Seidenberg.

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