By Robert Nyerges
Although it seems like just yesterday, nearly ten years have gone by since the passing of my mother, Helena Strauch. Neither my mother or myself knew a lot about her rare disease back then. We knew she needed a lung transplant but never received one. The roughly two years that she battled with pulmonary hypertension until her end are still shrouded in mystery to me and there are a lot of questions about PH that still need to be answered. Recently, I have decided to open the door to having those conversations.
I was only about eighteen when my mother’s health finally slid into an unrecoverable state. After a week in the hospital I was forced to make the executive decision of her fate. This isn’t a decision any young person should have to make. I was hardly into my first quarter of freshman year at college and as an adolescent, I was selfishly conflicted – I wanted to live my youth unburdened with the worry and heartache of a sick loved one, but I knew that my mother needed my support. Over time, taking care of my mother and taking on far more of the household responsibilities while still transitioning out of high school had slowly become routine. I didn’t see it happening at the time but my role as an unwitting partial caregiver helped shape me into the person I am today.
Strangely, it was fortunate for me that her decline was as gradual as it was because it allowed me time to cope and emotionally make amends with my mother’s loss. However, after many years of putting my experiences with pulmonary hypertension behind me, I’ve recently allowed those deep-rooted feelings to seep back into my consciousness. As a filmmaker in Los Angeles, I frequently rely on my intuitions, sensibilities, and emotions to craft my film projects into honest and grounded realities. It has only been within the last few years that I’ve realized a lot of those gut instincts and passions were largely formed in the time spent with my sick mother.
To give thanks to my mother, who is still teaching me even after her passing, I’ve begun to focus more on ways that I can use my filmmaking abilities to help shed light on issues that need to be recognized. One of those issues is, of course, pulmonary hypertension. Earlier this year I directed a sports commercial that told the story of a young man growing up, playing baseball, and struggling with the loss of his mother to an illness. The goal for me was to bring attention to a subject that isn’t widely known. My hope is that if I can create a film project that will reach a wide number of people then it will help to spread the word and perhaps start the conversations that need to be had to more fully understand pulmonary hypertension.
After graduation from film school, Robert started working in the movie industry on the production staff of Hollywood feature films such as Lincoln, The Lone Ranger, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Interstellar. Robert cites that seeing the masters of cinema exercising their craft first-hand, the likes of Spielberg, Scorsese, Mann, Nolan, and Fincher, was a motivational and an awe-inspiring blessing. Since his time in production, Robert has produced a number of award-winning music videos and short films. Deciding to take his own directing career to the next level, Robert began studying with famed acting and directing coach, Judith Weston. Since then, Robert has directed a number of music videos and commercial spots
Robert Nyerges and his mother
This post is part of PHA’s The Right Heart blog series. Find out how you can share your story. Click here.