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A good heart

Larry Wilson went through two heart surgeries earlier this year, receiving a total of seven blood transfusions, which helped save his life. Perham’s annual blood drive is coming up Thursday, June 13. Joe Bowen/FOCUS

Doctors told Larry Wilson that he would have only about a year to live unless he underwent surgery to replace two valves in his heart.

The subsequent open heart surgery he underwent on Feb. 7 replaced his aortic and tricuspid valves, which had slowly degraded over time, Wilson said, resulting in chronic shortness of breath and a lack of stamina, among other symptoms.

The deterioration was noticed during a yearly heart checkup about five years ago, Wilson recalled during an interview at his home north of Perham last week.

The purpose behind the replacements was “to extend my life,” he said.

A second surgery was needed a week later to remove fluid buildup and clots in Wilson’s pericardial sac, which surrounds the heart.

Wilson admits he’s not especially familiar with the medical lingo associated with his surgeries, but was quick to point out with a smile that, “whatever they did for me obviously worked.”

Across both surgeries, Wilson required a total of seven blood transfusions, which he said are very important, especially for an older person, because their body does not replace hemoglobin in the blood as quickly as a younger, healthier person.

“We float through life fat, dumb and happy – until something happens,” he said.

“You never know if or when you’ll need something like that,” he added in reference to the transfusions, “but it’s nice to know it’s there. It’s a life saver.”

The ordeal brought Wilson closer to his family, and served as a reminder to them to enjoy every moment together.

“For my immediate family, we appreciated the time we had together and didn’t take life for granted,” he said. “The time of the surgery and after became a bonding time for all of us.”

It also brought the family closer to their friends, and the community as a whole.

“We are humbled by the outpouring of love and support from friends and the community during this journey,” Wilson said. “We know that we have a ways to go, but will always be thankful for the kind words, visits and caring that we experienced.”

The Perham blood drive will be held on Thursday, June 13, from 12:30-6:30 p.m. and Friday, June 14, from 7:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at Calvary Lutheran church.

The blood drive has been going on for decades, said organizer Sue Von Ruden in an email to the Focus. It was sponsored by the Catholic Daughters in Perham until last year, when the Perham Rotary Club assumed sponsorship and organizational duties.

The American Red Cross supplies the equipment and medical professionals required to draw the blood, while the Rotarians plan and promote the event in addition to supplying the snacks and volunteers.