Dr. Robert Pensack is a physician, psychiatrist, former general practitioner, and emergency room doctor, as well as a long-term survivor of a cardiac transplant. He authored a critically acclaimed memoir entitled Raising Lazarus, which was originally published by Putnam in 1994 and now has been republished under the auspices of Author's Guild Backinprint.com Editions by iUniverse Press as an Editor’s Choice book. Raising Lazarus shares a powerful spiritual and existential message of hope.
His story is one of a life-long struggle with a mortal illness, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, HCM (formerly known as Idiopathic Hypertrophic Subaortic Stenosis or IHSS). Dr. Pensack shares the story of his family’s battle with a genetic illness that caused his mother’s death in 1955, when he and his brother Richard were 4 and 7 years of age. She was 31 at the time of her death. He and his brother went on to become chronic research heart patients as adolescents at The National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. They both endured a litany of surgeries and cardiac arrests, i.e. multiple near death experiences. Ultimately, both he and his brother Richard received life saving heart transplants in 1992 and 1990 respectively. Their story also chronicles an epic of progress in the field of organ transplantation which dawned in 1962 at almost the same time their medical diagnosis was made, and reached full bloom in time to save them 30 years later. Remarkably and coincidently, Dr. Pensack played a vital role in that evolution by helping to produce one of the anti-rejection drugs with which he himself was treated at the time of his greatest need twenty years later. His older brother Richard not only underwent heart transplantation two years prior to him, but additionally had to undergo a miraculous double transplant (liver and kidney) in August of 2004. His liver and kidney failure were caused by long-term complications resulting from previous open heart surgery and transplant medications.
Dr. Pensack often lectures on the role medical research has played in keeping his hope alive while he was forced to address the existential and philosophical questions surrounding his own mortality. In Raising Lazarus, he shares his journey of the mind, of the spirit, and of the emotions in dealing with the stark reality of the fragility of human life.