Retired Navy pilot to share his story at the Heart Ball

Because everything worked out right, Henna Hanrahan is still here, enjoying time with his family.

Robert “Henna” Hanrahan had one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. He was a Navy pilot for 10 years, and stayed in the Reserves after leaving the Navy. He flew a helicopter for the New York state Department of Conservation, which then merged with the State Police.

It wasn’t this dangerous job that threatened Henna’s life, but his heart.

Henna was having a quiet evening at home on June 20, 2104, with his wife, Marri Aviza, owner of Rumors Salon. They were watching “Shark Tank” in their living room.

That was the first in a chain of lucky coincidences for Henna, who was much more likely to be in his “man cave” than in his living room. But another in the chain of luck for Henna that evening was that Marri had gone out with friends, but decided to return home.

As they were watching TV, Marri noticed that Henna didn’t look so good.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, I felt like a 30,” he said. “Marri said she wanted to call 911, but I said no, and went to get an aspirin. I walked to the bathroom, took the aspirin, then fell backwards. That’s all I remember.”

Marri remembers more. “I called 911 and started CPR,” she said. “We had learned it at the hospital because our twin daughters were born prematurely. I did it for seven long minutes before EMS arrived. When they rang the bell, and the dispatcher on the phone told me to answer the door, I didn’t want to. I was afraid to leave Henna.”

The next lucky coincidence for Henna came when the paramedics arrived in 3 to 4 minutes. Instead of taking a direct route back to Albany Med, they were taking the scenic route down Route 9, close to Henna and Mary’s home.

“Some of the medics were people I had flown when we were doing rescue missions,” Henna said. “They paddled me, and put an oxygen mask on my face. They took me to the emergency department at St. Peter’s.”

Five days later, Henna had a defibrillator implanted to control his ventricular tachycardia. His heart rate had been at 270 beats per minute.

“I was 61 and a half years old,” Henna said. “I couldn’t fly any more. I retired, and was lucky to have a year of time set aside. If this had happened three or four years earlier, it would have been much harder. The house we live in also saved my life. We had just about paid off our other house, but Marri wanted to live closer to her business. EMS was so close to this house that night. When I write the mortgage check, I think of it.”

Henna still takes a big motorcycle trip each year, and enjoys the time he spends with his 10-year-old twin daughters, Simi and Zoe. He coaches his daughter’s basketball team.

“I thank God every day that I’m alive,” Henna said. “If things hadn’t gone as they did, the girls wouldn’t have remembered their father.”

Henna, Mari, Simi and Zoe also travel frequently.

“We have a good life,” Henna said. “I go back to my pilot mentality – I’m one of the luckiest people alive.”

Henna will share his story at the Capital Region Heart Ball on Saturday, March 3.

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