“It was 1996. I was scheduled for an angiogram on a Wednesday but the Saturday night before I woke up with a heart attack.”

As a retired newsman, Hal Lesser had seen a lot – the inside of the Mount St. Helens volcano, the Vietnam war, oil infernos, and hostage dramas. He’d even donned surgical scrubs to film one of the world’s first implantations of a revolutionary artificial heart valve.

So that Saturday night in 1996, he’d seen enough to know to call 9-1-1 for a ride to Providence Portland Medical Center.

An angioplasty helped treat the heart attack. Later, in September 2005, he received a new aortic valve that would save his life. “I never thought,” he says, “that I would be on the other end of that table, when I was 24 years old filming that heart transplant.”

Along his heart health journey, Hal has made some significant lifestyle changes and exercised regularly through a program sponsored by Providence.

Today, he’s making it easier for others to recover from heart attacks by making a significant gift to create the Hal Lesser Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, the first such facility at Providence Portland Medical Center. The center will accommodate 400 people and 8,000 visits per year, creating vastly better access for thousands of eastside heart patients.

Always happy with the care he’s received, Hal has contributed regularly to the Providence Portland Medical Foundation since his heart attack. “I’ve been fortunate in my investments and I don’t have an extravagant lifestyle. I just decided, I’ll donate now rather than waiting.”

Chuck Douville, M.D., is the surgeon who gave Hal his new heart valve. “Hal is such a great story teller and generous man,” he says. “Anyone who knows him will get a big grin every time they see his name on that center.”