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Larry King: The day my heart stopped

  • Story Highlights
  • CNN's Larry King suffered a heart attack in 1987
  • King calls heart attack "the biggest wake-up call of my life"
  • King created foundation for those who cannot pay for cardiac procedures
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By Larry King
CNN
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Editor's note: "Larry King Live" is on CNN nightly at 9 ET.

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CNN's Larry King and his wife, Shawn, celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- I was in Washington, D.C., recently with many of my closest friends celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Larry King Cardiac Foundation.

Flashback to the day in 1987 that my heart literally stopped. I was working at CNN from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. and for Mutual Broadcasting doing an overnight nationally syndicated radio show from midnight to 4 a.m.

Each guest I interviewed that night kept asking me if I felt OK, which I thought was rather strange, especially since one of those guests was Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop.

I finished the radio show and suddenly felt a pain I couldn't explain. After hearing all these guests telling me I didn't look good, I decided to go to the hospital just to make sure I was OK.

It turned out I was having a heart attack -- an event that forever changed my life. My close encounter with death led to a quintuple bypass.

This was the biggest wake-up call of my life. It forced me to reconsider my lifestyle. And it made me aware of something else: This whole thing cost a bundle of money! I was lucky. I had a great health plan with CNN. Insurance provided by the company paid for the procedure. How on earth could someone without insurance or vast wealth afford it? Where would they get quality care and treatment?

The answers aren't pretty. The uninsured fall into a big, black hole in our nation's health care system. Heart disease doesn't discriminate -- rich and poor are vulnerable.

So, I created the Larry King Cardiac Foundation to fund cardiac surgeries and other procedures for those who need them and have no way to pay. This group of Americans used to be called the "working poor." And now the middle class is affected, too -- in tremendous numbers.

Millions face a dilemma no one should be forced to confront: going without health care or going broke if something unexpected occurs.
We just celebrated a great evening to recognize the work of our foundation and those who support our efforts. We heard from patients and supporters, and were entertained by the wonderful talents of Nathan Burton, Darrell Hammond and three-time Grammy winner Seal.

We had some wonderful surprises, which the crowd and I especially enjoyed. They're from some people you can meet by clicking on the videos at our foundation's Web site at http://www.lkcf.org/.

I'll finish with a quick story about a 14-year-old named Matt. His father died of sudden cardiac arrest three years ago. This tragedy changed his life. Matt wrote to me about his dad and how he wanted to honor his life by saving the father of another child before it was too late. He made a red band, which you see me wear every night on my show. It's a reminder of so many positive things. We can all help one another and when we do we are part of the larger foundation family.

Visit the Web site to learn more about what Matt is doing, how you can make a difference, and how honored I am trying to Save a Heart a Day.

That's 365 hearts a year, and who knows how many lives?

All About Heart AttacksAmerican Heart Association

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