By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun
3:57 PM EDT, October 29, 2011
Dr. Lewis B. Newberg, a retired ear, nose and throat specialist who turned his personal battle with sleep apnea and snoring into a book in which he combined humor and practical medical advice for those similarly afflicted, died Oct. 22 of heart failure at his Edgewater home.
He was 72.
The son of a businessman and a homemaker, Dr. Newberg was born in the Bronx, N.Y., and raised in Jamaica, N.Y., where he was a graduate of public schools.
After earning a bachelor's degree from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, he earned his medical degree in 1964 from the Chicago Medical School.
Dr. Newberg completed his internship at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, and an ear, nose and throat residency in 1969 at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
From 1969 to 1971, he served as a naval surgeon and was assigned to the old Veterans Administration Hospital on Loch Raven Boulevard.
After leaving the Navy, he became a board-certified ear, nose and throat specialist and established a private practice in Baltimore.
In addition to his private practice, Dr. Newberg, who was associated with Harbor Hospital for 25 years, served as its medical director and headed the ear, nose and throat clinic.
At the South Baltimore hospital, he introduced many ear surgeries including cochlear implantation, during which an electronic device often called the "bionic ear" is implanted in the inner ear.
At Harbor Hospital, he also performed audiant bone conductor surgery, where implantable hearing aids are placed in the ear, and endolymphatic duct sinus surgery, which helps correct ear pressure, tinnitus and attacks of vertigo.
After closing his Baltimore practice in 2003, Dr. Newberg moved to Chadds Ford, Pa., where he focused his practice on sleep apnea and snoring.
Also while living in Chadds Ford, he served as medical director at South Chester Medical Center in Chester, Pa., and at Phillipsburg General Hospital in Phillipsburg, N.J.
"He'd give patients free antibiotics who couldn't afford them. And for patients who couldn't afford to pay for services, he'd accept food as payment," said his wife of 18 years, the former Laureen Collins, a registered nurse who works at Harbor Hospital. "Lew loved to eat and loved good food."
Dr. Newberg wrote in his 2008 book, "Snore or Roar: I've Got the Cure," that his struggle with snoring — which he called "Snorasurus" — and sleep apnea began innocently enough with a "long standing stuffy nose."
"Snoring is considered a joke. Like physicians and the public, I didn't take snoring seriously. Even the phrase 'sawing wood' makes you want to laugh," Dr. Newberg wrote. "The wife who complains that her husband is so loud he wakes her up every night is the perfect topic for a stand-up comic: 'My husband was so loud … How loud was he?' and the audience breaks into hysterics."
He wrote that as a physician, he knew that the cause of his snoring was caused by flabby tissue at the back of his throat, and that as the years passed and his snoring increased, his children called him "Jeremiah the Bullfrog."
Dr. Newberg said in a vain attempt to sleep, his then-new wife, Laureen, would deliver sharp jabs to his ribs, hoping that by waking him up, she could get some sleep.
"She finally threatened to sleep in another room. This sounded the alarm of another marriage down the drain — and additional alimony payments," he wrote.
His sleep apnea, up to a dozen episodes or so a night, resulted in an alarming cessation of breathing.
Finally, Dr, Newberg, who nearly wrecked his Mercedes after falling asleep at the wheel, realized he had to do something about being chronically fatigued.
In 1995, after three operations on his throat, two heart attacks and coronary-bypass surgery forced Dr. Newberg to face reality.
"As I well knew, two easy, practical ways to control snoring were to diet and to exercise," he wrote. "Years of smoking, laziness, and eating overstuffed corn beef sandwiches had made my body look like the Pillsbury Doughboy. Laureen affectionately referred to my developing potbelly as 'the landing field.'"
He added: "Like many doctors, I believed God had made me immortal."
Dr. Newberg's development of a successful treatment for patients who suffered sleep apnea was a "combination of ethmoid surgery and laser treatment of the nose and throat for cure of snoring and sleep apnea disease," he wrote. "But thanks to my surgery, I am finally cured of sleep apnea."
Dr. Newberg, who retired in 2006, was the author of a second book, "The Last Surgeon," published in 2008.
He was an opera fan and enjoyed attending performances of the Washington Opera Company. He also was an avid fly fisherman.
"He also loved London and loved to go there and attend the theater," his wife said.
A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Maryland Veterans Cemetery, 1122 Sunrise Beach Road, in Crownsville.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Ian Newberg of Rockville and Ethan Newberg of Westminster; a daughter, Dr. Barbara Newberg of Frederickburg, Va.; two stepsons, Nicholas Collins of Baltimore and Robert Bowman of Leesburg, Va.; a brother, Richard Newberg of Miami; a sister, Nancy Schwartz of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and six grandchildren.
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