Heartbreak

When Beth Wilhelm awoke on the morning of Christmas Eve, her husband’s breathing sounded funny. “I tried shaking him awake, but he didn’t respond,” she said. “He was turning gray.”

Panicked, Beth called 9-1-1 and started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Soon, paramedics arrived to take Roger Wilhelm to Strong Memorial hospital.

Wilhelm, the long-time music director of choral group Madrigalia, former director of Rochester Oratorio Society, and music director at Asbury First United Presbyterian church, had suffered a serious heart attack. Doctors sent him into a medically-induced coma. The procedure, used on critically ill patients ranging from the prime minister of Israel to a Wisconsin teen bitten by a rabid bat, allows the brain to hibernate so it can recuperate. The idea is to reduce swelling and pressure, which cut off blood flow to the brain and can kill healthy brain tissue. It also lets the patient rest.

Beth says she was pretty scared. The first time Roger opened his eyes, she asked, “Do you know who I am?” Slowly, he smiled and nodded. Roger says he has no memory of what happened a week prior to the heart attack.

Miraculously, a mere week and a half later, Beth and Roger walked into a reception Saturday night hosted by Madrigalia for the group’s alumni and friends. He looked a little tired and thin. He’d phoned someone in the group ahead of time to ask that no one make a fuss over him. It was hard not to, all things considered.

The group is working on a grant (for a future season) that would fund a collaboration with a major American composer. Nothing's set yet, but if the grant comes through, organizers of the Women's Music Festival at the Eastman School of Music would be very pleased. This season is Roger Wilhelm's last with Madrigalia.

More pictures from the reception follow. I'm sorry these are so dark: my flash wasn't working.

Richard and Claire Gladwell look on as Roger Wilhelm receives a giftRichard and Claire Gladwell look on as Roger Wilhelm receives a giftRetiring singer Ann Rhody and her husbandRetiring singer Ann Rhody and her husbandmembers of Madrigalia, present and formermembers of Madrigalia, present and formerClaire Gladwell and Carl PultzClaire Gladwell and Carl Pultz

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