Serling had 'attack' during surgery

Drugs, machine keep writer alive


D&C staff writer

June 28, 1975

Rod Serling apparently suffered a heart attack Thursday during what had appeared to be successful open heart surgery at Strong Memorial Hospital, hospital officials said yesterday. 'He remained in very critical condition last night.

Serling, 50, a television script writer and creator of "The Twilight Zone", is being kept alive by drug stimulants and a heart-lung machine in Strong's surgical-intensive care unit, a hospital spokesman said.

The surgery was performed on Serling to improve blood circulation to his heart.

Doctors said his coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart, had been partly blocked.

The operation was intended to bypass the blockages by grafting veins from the thighs onto the coronary arteries, thus giving the blood an alternate route to the heart. 

Serling had appeared to be doing well after two veins had been grafted and he was taken off the heart-lung machine, the hospital spokesman said.

But as the surgeons were finishing the operation, Serling "apparently suffered a heart attack," the spokesman said.

Another vein was then grafted onto a coronary artery, but Serling needed the assistance of the heart-lung machine, the spokesman said. 

The machine partly assumes the functions of the heart and lungs, allowing the heart to rest until it can take over again.

Serling, who is visiting professor and lecturer of creative writing at Ithaca College, had suffered a heart attack about two months ago and had been troubled by recurring chest pains.

He was transferred June 13 form Tompkins County Hospital in Ithaca to Strong for tests preceding the surgery. Serling, a native of Syracuse who grew up in Binghamton, has been living at his family summer home near Interlaken, overlooking Cayuga Lake.

Serling's heart gives out

June 29, 1975

Rod Serling died yesterday in Strong Memorial Hospital of complications during open heart surgery Thursday.

Mr. Serling, 50, television writer and creator of "The Twilight Zone," was pronounced dead at 2:15 p.m.

His wife, Carolyn; his daughters Mrs. Steven Croyle of Ithaca and Ann, and his brother, Robert J. Serling of Potomac, Md., were with him.

A team of surgeons tried unsuccessfully yesterday morning to take Mr. Serling off a heart-lung machine that he had been on since Thursday evening after more than 10 hours of open heart surgery.

He had entered the operating room at 8:45 a.m. Thursday for two coronary by-pass operations in which two veins from the thigh were grafted onto the coronary arteries to allow alternative routes for blood flowing to the heart.

After the wound was sewn up and Mr. Serling was taken off the life-supporting machine, he suffered a heart attack. Surgeons reopened the wound and applied direct heart massage, putting him back on the machine and performing a third by-pass procedure.

Mr. Serling came out of the operating room about 7 p.m. Thursday in guarded condition, supported by drugs and the machine.


The heart attack "weakened his heart to such an extent that he was unable to sustain his circulation despite mechanical assistance and supportive medicines," a Strong spokesman said yesterday.

Mr. Serling's brother Robert said: "Rod's family is deeply appreciative of all that was done for Rod by the entire staff of Strong Memorial Hospital and particularly for the dedication and skill of his physicians."

The family will have a private funeral service and has asked that instead of flowers contributions in Mr. Serling's memory be made to the American Heart Association.