Rare Treatment in Detroit Provides Lifesaving Start

cto pci patient larry dittbenner playing golfLarry Dittbenner knew something was wrong when he had chest pain walking from his mailbox to his house.

But the 65-year-old wasn’t prepared when his cardiologist at Swedish American in Rockford, about 90 miles northwest of Chicago, told him the heart bypass done 25 years ago was 100% blocked.

“He said there were three things we could do,” Larry said. “One, leave it and suffer; two, take medication; and three, there were three places in the United States that were doing a procedure that would help, and one was Henry Ford.”

The doctor called cardiologist, Dr. Khaldoon Alaswad, director of the cardiac catheterization lab at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, an expert in chronic total occlusion percutaneous coronary intervention, the procedure Larry needed. Weaving catheters into the heart through a small incision in the groin area, the cardiologist uses a tiny spring-like wire to un-clogged arteries with 100% blockage. But where most doctors have a 60% to 70% success rate, Dr. Alaswad’s success rate hovers above 90%.

“We definitely picked Detroit because of the recommendation and the reputation,” said Kim. “Dr. Alaswad’s success rate was so high at Henry Ford, it made us confident that he would take on someone as challenging as Larry. There was a lot of comfort in that.”

Within days, Larry and his wife of 39 years, Kim, a nurse who knew the seriousness of the situation, met with Dr. Alaswad. A few days later, Dr. Alaswad performed the CTO PCI and cleared the clogged artery that was bypassed when Larry was in his 40s.

Excellence in Care

Learn more about Dr. Khaldoon Alaswad, world-renowned Interventional Cardiologist and director of the cardiac catheterization lab at Henry Ford Hospital.

Their decision and Dr. Alaswad’s skill proved crucial to Larry’s survival during the ensuing year. Four months later, doctors at Swedish diagnosed Larry with bacterial endocarditis, a life-threatening infection of the heart unrelated to his previous procedures. At a hospital closer to home, Larry had a surgical replacement of his damaged aortic heart valve.

“Anesthesia said he was a week away from dying,” Kim said she was told after the open heart surgery. “Had he not had such good circulation to his heart, he would have had a giant heart attack that would have killed him.”

Plus, just days before the valve replacement, Larry was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor which doctors removed five months after the heart valve surgery.

Today, Larry is fully recovered, with follow-up care with his local doctors. And he’s enjoying doing the normal things he did before his medical odyssey – like tending to his yard, which Kim says again resembles Wrigley Field.

“It’s nice to catch up on stuff; I had to have a service cut my grass last year,” he said. “I feel blessed. I have my wife; she’s my rock. I couldn’t have done it without her. And I had great medical crews. She said it took a village, and we have the best village on Earth – family, friends and the medical community.”

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