Celebrities Who Had Open Heart Surgery

What is open heart surgery? According to Medline Plus, open heart surgery “is any surgery where the chest is opened and surgery is done on the heart muscle, valves, arteries, or other parts of the heart (such as the aorta). The term ‘open’ means that the chest is ‘cut’ open.”

Medline goes on to explain that nowadays, because of the advancement in medical technology, the term “open heart surgery” has become confusing as “new procedures are being done on the heart through smaller cuts”.

Anyhoo, here’s a list of famous people (and relatives of famous people) who are mentioned in news reports to have undergone open heart surgery.

Barbara Walters. This television icon had an open heart surgery in 2010. In a piece for Vanity Fair Magazine, she wrote about her experience thus:

“My operation was called open-heart surgery, which sounds very frightening. More than half a million open-heart surgeries are performed every year in this country, but the very description seems so terrifying that many people, afraid that they might have to undergo it, avoid even having an annual checkup.

“My surgery was to replace my aortic valve, one of the four valves of the heart, which was getting increasingly narrow. That meant that blood was having a hard time getting out of the heart—not a good thing. If you happen to like scary films, here’s the ghoulish part. Your heart is located in the center of your chest, and the surgeon saws through your breastbone to reach it, using a sort of crowbar to spread the chest open. For a short period of time, he actually holds your heart in his hand, though it is still attached to your body. (My heart was stopped for 30 minutes, and for more than an hour I was on a heart-lung machine, which takes over the pumping action of your heart.) Then the doctor replaces the aortic valve with one from a pig or a cow. In my case, it came from a cow. (I was happy when I learned that. A pig valve wouldn’t be kosher.) Now the blood can flow easily again, and you are as good as new—maybe even better.”

Regis Philbin. Regis, who is as much as a TV icon as Barbara Walters above, had a successful triple bypass surgery in March 2007. Before he went under the knife, here’s what he had to say about his surgery:

“Darn it, I don’t want to do it. Nobody wants to do it, I guess. But they tell me. And I had a second opinion, I did all those things [tests for heart disease], and so they [the doctors] are all in agreement that it should be the bypass. And so that’s what I’m going to do.”

Star Jones. Star is a lawyer and Barbara’s former co-host on The View. She underwent an open heart surgery in 2010. She went on to compete on Celebrity Apprentice and picked the American Heart Association as her charity to which her “winnings” will be donated. Here’s Star on her heart surgery and joining The Apprentice:

“I had open heart surgery last March. It will be exactly one year when Celebrity Apprentice airs. I ended up having pretty extensive surgery and being me, the lawyer, I had to absorb ever bit of information I could and I started to learn about the American Heart Association and heart disease in general. I don’t know how many people really do understand the fact that 82 million people in the United States suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease and it’s the number one killer of all Americans, it’s the number one killer of women, it’s the number one killer of African Americans. Needless to say, when I had to choose an organization that I wanted to benefit from my work on Celebrity Apprentice, I wanted to choose something that was personal and that I thought would have a longstanding impact. The American Heart Association was perfect.”

Robin Williams. In November 2008, this Academy Award-winning actor had an open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve. Says, Dr. A. Marc Gillinov, one of the surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic where the funnyman was treated:

“Mr. Williams’ operation went extremely well, and we expect him to make a full recovery. The 3-1/2-hour heart surgery was conducted to replace his aortic valve, repair his mitral valve and correct his irregular heart beat. His heart is strong, and he will have normal heart function in the coming weeks with no limitations on what he’ll be able to do.”

Burt Reynolds. Our imaginary boyfriend in the 1990s, Burt Reynolds, had a successful quintuple bypass at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, Florida in March 2010. Reveals his spokesperson, Erik Kritzer: “Mr. Reynolds has been released from a hospital in Florida in which he had a planned bypass operation. He wants to thank everyone for their good wishes and states that he has a great motor with brand new pipes and he is feeling great. Doctors plan on a speedy recovery.”

Bret Michaels. Rocker and reality TV star Bret Michaels underwent surgery in 2011. Reports undercover.fm:

Doctors says the operation to correct a hole in the heart of Poison singer Bret Michaels was a success. Michaels was admitted to the St Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix this week for the heart procedure after the hole was discovered when the singer was treated for a brain hemorrhage last April.

Bret Michaels was given a catheter in a vein then doctors used the latest medical equipment including a tiny camera to fix the hole. The hole is thought to have been the cause of a minor stroke Michaels suffered last year.

Joseph Germanotta aka Lady Gaga’s father. He was fatalistic about his condition and didn’t want to have surgery but was eventually convinced by her daughter to go under the knife. She said in an interview following the operation in October 2009:

He’s doing great. He’s home now and I’m just really excited that I have my dad for the rest of my life. It was a really close call, so I’m just relieved.

Well, I’ve known about my dad’s heart condition for a long time – about 15 years. About five years ago it became worse but he wasn’t going to get the surgery. He told me, ‘Whatever happens, happens’.

Yeah, I was getting ready to lose my dad. I wrote a song called Speechless – that’s not a plug by the way! It was my plea to my father to have the heart operation.

He said he felt fine, but one day he just started not feeling so good and I literally dropped everything, sat down with him and told him, ‘This is not just your heart, it is all of our hearts. If you go, Dad, I’m going to quit music’. And so he had it.

Children, like the two celebrity kids below, can undergo open heart surgery too.

Max Page. This seven-year-old child actor who stars in Young and the Restless and is known for playing Darth Vader in a Superbowl commercial will have surgery at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles on 14 June 2012 to replace his pulmonary valve and repair a hole in his heart. According to a CBS report, Max was born with a congenital heart defect and has undergone multiple surgeries.

Naleigh Heigl-Kelly. The adoptive daughter of actress Katherine Heighl and singer Josh Kelly had an open heart surgery before she turned two. Reports Harpers Bazaar:

Though Naleigh has been described in the press as special-needs, she was actually born with a congenital heart problem that was fixed via open-heart surgery before she left Korea. “Her heart is 100 percent fine now. She has a scar, so she won’t be wearing bikinis, which is fine by us,” Katherine explains, unembarrassed by her overprotectiveness. ”

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