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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 8, 2005

Don Ho 'up, alert' in Thai hospital

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Staff Writer

Don Ho's recovery from experimental heart surgery took a step forward when he was moved out of intensive care and into a transitional room yesterday at an undisclosed hospital in Bangkok, Thailand.

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

Ho, 75, is recovering from a VesCell therapy procedure, performed Monday night, which can improve the heart's pumping ability by 20 percent to 70 percent.

The treatment, not available in the United States, 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 to help restore damaged tissue and ultimately regulate the patient's heartbeat.

Ho 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, said conventional surgery would not help Ho and recommended the experimental surgery as a last resort to improve Ho's condition.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Kit Arom performed the procedure, which was overseen by Dr. Amit Patel of Pittsburgh. Arom, who is Thai and American-board certified, returned to Thailand from a position at the University of Michigan medical center a few years ago at the request of the king of Thailand, who wanted the doctor to tend to his health.

Moving into the transitional room yesterday is a step forward for Ho, Jung said.

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

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.