One moment in Florida Hospital completely altered David Catalano’s life and the way he viewed his entire existance. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
ORLANDO – David Catalano remembers it all so vividly. It was four years ago, and he felt like he was drifting, and life was possibly getting worse.
“I was turning 40,” he said, “and I hadn’t reached my goals.”
It was also a terrible day: Oct. 8, 2008, when the world economy appeared to be on the verge of financial collapse.
And then, in the midst of all this, it happened: Catalano died.
“My last moment was saying ‘You’ve got to help me or I’m going to die,’ “ he recalled.
As it turns out, both happened. At Florida Hospital, where Catalano had gone in to be treated for stomach pains, he died. The medical team treating him also did what they needed to do, and revived Catalano.
It was a moment that would forever change how he lives each day and how he views his life.
“I experienced something in my life that I call ’20 seconds,’ something I didn’t expect to happen,” Catalano said. “I said ‘You’ve got to help me or I’m going to die’ – and I did. I was dead for 20 seconds. It changed my life. Now I see life is precious, and you really never know what is going to happen.”
Originally a native of Buffalo, N.Y., Catalano now lives in Orlando, and is the president of the Orlando Speakers Bureau, which provides motivational, keynote, guest and professional speakers to a wide variety of audiences.
Catalano said one of the things he now enjoys talking to audiences about is his special viewpoint about living each day.
“I discovered YOLO – You Only Live Once, so make it count,” he said. “It’s a perspective on life.”
Growing up in a city that Catalano said had “become the butt of a lot of jokes” because of all the snow that got dumped onto its streets each winter, he developed a passion for taking on, and hopefully overcoming, challenges early on. Catalano recalls playing football, and agreeing – perhaps against his own better judgment – to tackle a player twice his size.
“It’s a challenge,” he said. “It’s something to experience if you haven’t done that. I was 150 pounds, and I used to go against a guy who was 310 pounds, twice my size. That was a nice challenge in my life. You look at the old David versus Goliath principles. They may be big, but they can be beaten.”
What he wasn’t prepared for, as he attempted to build his career here in Orlando, was the day he started to experience pain in his stomach, and sought medical treatment.
“I had a cramp in the left side of my abdomen,” he recalled. “I went into the hospital for a CAT scan. They asked me, ‘Do you eat shellfish?’ I said, ‘Sure, I eat it all the time.’ “
As part of the medical tests, physicians gave Catalano an iodine contrast, used as a disinfectant and as part of contrast dyes for medical imaging. What no one realized at the time was the violent allergic reaction that it would set off in Catalano – and that would literally kill him moments later.
“It turns out there’s a lot of food allergies I had,” he said.
But the physicians were able to revive him. And today, Catalano said, he no longer sweats out the small stuff. Every day seems so precious to him. He’s alive, and able to enjoy each moment.
“When I awoke, it changed my philosophy,” he said. “Now, the little things don’t matter.”
This attitude can apply to business practices as well as one’s personal life, he added. Catalano often talks to business groups about successful sales techniques, and on Nov. 16 he was a guest speaker at the annual Trade Show sponsored by the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, which represents the region’s fast-growing vacation home industry.
“I’ve been in sales for a while, as well as in corporate America and my own business,” Catalano said. “What I learned is if you’re out doing something, change what you do. If you’re not out selling, you’re being outsold. That’s also the definition of motivation. This is the process that initiates and guides a goal.”
Whether it’s how a person operates a business, or how they live their lives, they need to set goals for what they want and how they can get there, he added.
“Say to yourself, ‘I can make that which will help me be more alive,’ “ he said. “What would you like to achieve in your life? Write them down. Make a plan. Take action, even if it’s in small steps. You’re going to face obstacles, but just go right through these obstacles.”
Most of all, he said, “Go for your goals. Reach for your dreams, and live your life with passion.”
And, he added, think about where he has been – and what he survived to happily live another day, and appreciate all life has to offer.
“You only live once,” he added, “so make it count.”
To learn more, contact Orlando Speakers Bureau.

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