Falafel stand owner who epitomized corona woes hospitalized with heart attack

Yuval Carmi from Ashdod is recovering from a heart attack. His tearful TV interview epitomized the plight of small businesses during the pandemic’s height. 

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Falafel stand owner Yuval Carmi, whose tearful television interview of economic woe captivated a country, was recovering in a hospital Monday after having suffered a heart attack over the weekend.

Carmi checked himself into Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot with chest pains on Sunday and suffered the attack while in the hospital, Channel 13 reported.

With his business paralyzed by the coronavirus lockdown, Carmi’s heart-wrenching tale of being on the verge of bankruptcy epitomized the suffering of small business owners throughout Israel.

The viral wave of public support brought the reporter interviewing him to tears and caught the eye of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who called Carmi and promised to help.

Carmi got a hospital visit from the same Channel 13 reporter, Noga Nir, who herself was driven to tears and had to stop the original interview. Forgoing health regulations, the two hugged and Carmi told Nir how doctors had said the stress he was under was a factor in the heart attack.

“Thank God, they made a new man out of me. They saved me,” Carmi said, telling her that when he arrived in the emergency ward somebody recognized him and said out loud Carmi was “that crybaby from television.”

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“That hurt me. My heart exploded,” he said, adding that since the TV interview he had received much love and support from around the country, but had also been the victim of fake news posted on social media with people claiming he was a wealthy man who was putting on a show.

“It hurt me for my wife and my children, who would come home every night crying and see everything written about us on Facebook that we were rich and [I] was a liar and … a fraud,” Carmi said.

After several days of chest pain and weakness and with a history of heart trouble, Carmi decided to go to the hospital, but he did not think his condition would deteriorate so quickly. He suffered the heart attack while being catheterized, and the procedure saved his life.

Prof. Kobi George, who heads the cardiology department at Kaplan Hospital, said it was “a definite certainty” that the stress Carmi was under was a factor in the heart attack.

“Now he has a new heart,” George said, prompting Carmi to lean out of his bed and pull the lab-coated doctor close for a hug and with a huge smile, telling the doctor, “I love you, I love you.”

“Yuval, are you sorry for that moment when I met you in the street and you opened your heart and the entire country saw it,” asked Nir.

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“I’m sorry and I’m not sorry,” Carmi replied. “I was finished. I didn’t care, but it hurts me for my wife and children.”

Carmi said many business owners called him after the interview saying he had inspired them to go forward, but his desire was to get back to work himself. “I miss the people, to make them smile. That’s my world.”