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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 3:52 p.m., Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Don Ho moves out of ICU in Bangkok hospital

Advertiser staff

Legendary entertainer Don Ho was moved out of the intensive care unit today and into a transitional room at an undisclosed hospital in Bangkok, Thailand to recover from an experimental heart procedure performed Monday, said Donna Jung, Ho's publicist.

"He's up and alert and in the care unit," Jung said.

Ho, 75, has a heart condition called cardiomyopathy, a serious disease in which the heart muscle becomes inflamed and doesn't function normally. Ho's Honolulu cardiologist, Dr. Edward N. Shen, recommended that Ho consider undergoing the experimental surgery called VesCell Adult Stem Cell therapy. Shen said the therapy was a last resort to improve Ho's condition, since conventional surgery would not help.

Haumea Hebenstreit, the singer's assistant who has been with him throughout the surgery process, likened the transition room the veteran Waikiki performer is now in to "a five-star hotel," Jung said.

VesCell therapy, not available in the United States, can improve the heart's pumping ability from 20 to 70 percent. The treatment involves an injection of stem cells taken from the patient's own blood. The stem cells are isolated then multiplied through a patented lab-grown process. They are then inserted directly into the heart or arteries and to help restore damaged tissue and ultimately regulate the patient's heart beat.

Ho is expected to be home within the next two weeks and anticipates getting back to work at the Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel by Christmas.