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Heart Patient Has New Hope for Future After Successful New Surgery

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shortly after Larry Brandon was found to have an inoperable heart condition, he was told he had only a year to live. On Wednesday, Brandon became the first Orange County patient to undergo a new medical procedure that he hopes will give him a new lease on life.

During a 90-minute surgery at St. Jude Medical Center, doctors delicately removed damaged heart tissue in Brandon’s chest. That should allow the 46-year-old Walnut resident’s heart to beat more efficiently, said doctors who reported Brandon in good condition after the procedure.

After the operation Wednesday, Linda Brandon spoke in a quiet, calm voice and said she looked forward to the day when her husband regains his health and the two can once again enjoy their favorite pastimes--including going to stadium shows featuring hot rods and all-terrain trucks.

“We really enjoy going to rod runs,” Linda Brandon said. “Larry loves old cars and street rods.”

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Dr. Ke Hong Kwon, who performed the surgery, said Brandon could leave the hospital in four or five days. Brandon’s prognosis for recovery is good and he should be able to resume normal activities in the future, doctors said.

Dr. Randas Batista, a Brazilian, said he developed the surgical technique that was used during Wednesday’s operation 14 years ago as an alternative for patients for whom a heart transplant is not an option.

Present at Brandon’s operation, Batista said the procedure is still a rarity. He has personally performed just over 500 such operations, only about 50 of which have taken place in the United States, he said.

Batista said the procedure has been greeted with skepticism over the years but has gained greater acceptance as the public learns about it, often through medical features on television.

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The Brandons first learned about the procedure from a segment on a television news program. They took a videotaped copy of the show to their cardiologist and wondered if perhaps it could be the answer to their medical woes, but their doctor was at first reluctant.

But luck was on their side, the Brandons said Wednesday. A special staff at St. Jude had been closely following the success of the procedure. Just two weeks ago, Kwan returned from a visit with Batista in Brazil and decided that St. Jude would go forward with their first “Batista,” officials said.

All they needed was a candidate.

“The timing was a godsend,” said Linda Brandon of the call she received from the cardiologist notifying them of the opportunity.

Dr. Alan Barsari, medical director of cardiac services at St. Jude, hopes that other hospitals performing the operation will work together to eliminate any mystery about the new procedure.

Whether or not the procedure will be covered by the Brandons’ medical insurance remains to be seen, officials said. But St. Jude spokeswoman Pam LeMuiex said the Brandons have been assured they will not be responsible for any of the costs.


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