Larry Walters: Mitral Valve Replacement

Larry Walters would say his heart journey began many years ago, when he gave his heart to his wife, Diane. His cardiovascular health journey began with a heart attack in 2010. He ended up needing open-heart surgery with a quadruple bypass that was done by his cardiologist, Dr. Goodwin in Illinois. The procedure was successful, and he continued to heal, until his health started to decline again.  

“Dr. Goodwin looked into my heart situation again and realized that I was getting a lot of backflow –  because my valve was not functioning as it should,” said Larry. “My  heart got oversized in the process of everything I went through.” 

Larry had a mitral valve regurgitation, caused by a leaky mitral valve, so his heart couldn’t pump blood and oxygen efficiently. This affected Larry’s ability to do his normal daily routine and surgery to address the problem was not an option for him. He was told his prognosis was not good. 

Dr. Goodwin actually said, I wish I could say you have two months, but I can’t.’” said Diane. “He was taking Larry’s files to conferences and talking to doctors all over trying to see if there was anything available that could give us hope.

Larry’s next appointment began with news that they had tried everything and there was nothing available. That’s when they received the call from Dr. Paul Sorajja, Roger L. and Lynn C. Headrick Chair of the Valve Science Center at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation® (MHIF). Dr. Sorajja shared the good news that MHIF had received approval for a new research study and Larry might be a candidate.

The study was the first of its kind evaluating a new medical technology to replace the mitral valve with a self-expanding valve that is delivered through a small incision in the chest and up through the heart. When asked about why he decided to participate in research, Larry said the decision was an easy one for him. Larry is a food scientist with a long history as a pioneer of ancient grains in the food industry, including research that earned him a patent in his name.

I had complete trust in their abilities, in their science,” said Larry. From the moment Dr. Sorajja started to speak, there was no question in my heart that he was capable of doing what he was saying he was going to do.”

In 2020, Larry reached his five-year milestone in the research study that helped him find an option for his heart valve disease. Both he and Diane are grateful for the time they have with their seven grandchildren and looking forward to a future together.

“As of May 2021, Larry has lived with this technology for six years, which is far greater than he was expected to survive at that time,” said Dr. Sorajja. “I think about what that therapy has done for patients, because Larry was number two in the United States, number eight in the world. Since then, there have been over 450 patients treated. Thanks to the bravery of Larry and Diane for embracing the possibility of a new therapy that could save Larry’s life, while understanding that there are risks, and taking that brave step and pioneering the way for so many patients around the world.”

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