'Ice Castles' Star Robby Benson Reveals He's Survived Four Open-Heart Surgeries in His New Autobiography
I'm Not Dead … Yet! Details Benson's Career Successes and Health Woes, Including His First Open-Heart Surgery at Age 28
Former teen idol Robby Benson has experienced decades of success starring in movies like Ice Castles, Ode to Billy Joe and Running Brave; directing TV shows like Friends and Ellen; and writing books, starring on Broadway and working as a visiting professor at colleges like New York University and the University of South Carolina.
And though he's happily married to singer and actress Karla DeVito and the couple has two children, Benson also spent the last few decades dealing with an ongoing heart issue that had led to four open-heart surgeries, depression, pain and a familiarity with the medical community that most of us hope to be able to avoid.
The 56-year-old Benson is sharing his experiences, personal and professional, in his new autobiography I'm Not Dead … Yet!, in which he says his heart problems -- the result of being born with an undiagnosed heart valve defect -- began in his early 20s.
"I remember passing out and was thinking, 'Wow, this is serious. But I better not tell anyone.' I was brought up very, very old school, and you don't tell anybody you're hurt or you're injured and you especially don't tell anyone that you have a heart problem," Benson told People magazine. "It's career death. And the only thing I ever knew in my entire life were the arts. I had no perspective. I didn't understand life."
Benson underwent his first open-heart surgery in 1984 and his most recent two years ago, with two others in between.
The book is not just the usual celeb autobio; it's also a "medical memoir," detailing his experiences with the surgery and its aftermath (which includes bouts of severe depression and a lot of intense physical pain and slow recoveries) and learning to maneuver through the medical community.
"Doctors are human, they make mistakes, and you have to stay on top of them," he says. "You have to ask the second question, the third question, the follow-up to the fourth question."
Benson, despite all the surgeries, is very healthy today. He runs in races and does hundreds of sit-ups every day, People reports.
"This sounds bizarre, it sounds like I'm an old hippie, but you need to truly embrace (your health problems)," Benson says. "If you fight it, you’re a fool. If you're afraid of death, I would say, either fight for your life or come to grips with the fact you may not make it. And in doing that there shouldn't be bitterness. There should be a celebration. There should be an understanding of how lucky you are. That's how I feel."
PS -- If you're going to check out Benson's inspiring book, consider opting for the digital version, which includes video clips, music, tons of photos from his personal collection and even spoken word sections.