How a Heart Attack Became a Wake-Up Call for A+E Networks Chief Paul Buccieri

Paul Buccieri Iron Man
Dave Stibor

In the summer of 2019 I was training hard for a half Ironman in Lake Placid, N.Y. I felt like I was in great shape.

The last week before a big race is a time when you’re supposed to start pacing yourself and give your body more rest. But I didn’t. I pushed myself. On a weekend day in mid-August, I was riding my bike down a road I had traveled many times before. The last thing I remember is that time seemed to slow down, and then everything went dark. Later, I was told a good Samaritan stopped and found me near where I went down.

There are so many “as luck would have it” moments that day. As luck would have it, a kind motorist was willing to help someone they didn’t know. A hospital was nearby, and it just happened to be having a slow day; this also allowed me to meet a doctor who, as luck would have it, referred me to another specialist without delay. I quickly learned I had a heart problem — acute coronary syndrome with 70% blocked arteries. I had to have two stents placed. I was shocked. I have always been athletic, and training has been my solace. But more than that, it was my most creative space. Now I had to not just slow down but stop. And I would have to adjust to living with cardiovascular disease. I was lucky to be alive, but it was hard to imagine what life might look like now. It was a dark period.

For me and many others, the passage of time is a driving force. It motivates me, whether it be to finish a race, ideate on a new project, close a deal or find more time with my loved ones. I have always been concerned that time would run out.

When facing hard challenges, the only way out is through, and the best way through is to be informed and awake. Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death among women and men globally. Since this issue is so personal to me, I am determined to put faces behind the numbers. One of them is mine

This month, A+E Networks is launching an initiative called Don’t Skip a Beat, in an effort to encourage people everywhere to embrace heart health. Don’t Skip a Beat will provide information about cardiovascular health and concrete details like how to spot the warning signs of heart attacks and strokes. The signs are different for men and women (women, especially women of color, face longer wait times for care and diagnosis), so being educated on the signs and the need to act quickly can save lives.

We’ll also raise awareness about the socioeconomic realities of cardiovascular disease and the disproportionate impact it has on people of color. It is crucial to support equal access to resources and to the level of medical treatment that I have been so fortunate to receive.

A year ago, I got the OK to do a half Ironman race, so I started training again. My time wasn’t great, but that wasn’t the point. I was running a different race. My purpose was to show up, stay present and finish … and I did.

When I suffered that great moment of darkness, it became a wake-up call that has changed the way I live the rest of my life. My hope is that by sharing my story, and using A+E Networks’ platforms for outreach and education, I can play a small part in helping others achieve the one thing so many of us covet most: more time.

Paul Buccieri is president and chairman of A+E Networks Group. He joined the company in 2015.