Retired KAKE icon Larry Hatteberg recovering after 7 bypasses

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Larry Hatteberg, a KAKE News icon for more than 50 years, announced he is recovering from open heart surgery. In fact, he had seven bypasses. 

Larry retired from KAKE in 2014 after 51 years. He started when he was 18 years old, after begging KAKE management for a job. It started as a temporary summer job, but quickly grew to a full-time spot.

Larry has won more than 130 state and national awards in photography and reporting jobs. He is the most honored journalist in Kansas. 

His former colleagues wish him well in his recovery and hope to see more of his breathtaking photographs soon.

Larry posted the following on his Facebook page Tuesday:

**Seven Cardiac Bypasses Later, I Need To Tell You Something**

The mobile phone rings. Pleasantries are exchanged. Then the voice on the other end said, “Larry, you are going to have a heart attack.”

It was my wise and beloved family physician, with the results of my latest ‘stress’ test. He had noticed a small ‘blip’ on the electronic printout that something wasn’t right. Others may have missed it. He didn’t. I owe my life to his experienced eye.

I’m a guy in fairly good health. I’m older, wiser and I try to take care of myself. I’m a fan of the Mediterranean diet, walk four to five miles at least five times a week, and here’s the key: I have no history of heart problems. Zero! Well, OK, perhaps a little high blood pressure and a little higher than normal cholesterol. But no rip-roaring warning signs that I was used to hearing.

Now, I hate putting personal information on Facebook. It’s like exposing your life to a stadium filled with strangers. I’m a private guy, but I decided to tell this story so that it might save a life.

I had gone to see the doctor because on a photo shoot, I found myself a bit light-headed and a bit more tired than normal. After my family physician’s phone call there was no wasted time.

The next day I was on an operating table for a cardiac catheterization A flickering fluorescent catches my eye. Is that light a visual metaphor for what is happening to me? I hear a doctor say, “here’s a little Valium.” I relax, things seem soft and cozy. All of sudden I’m awake, the test completed. A doctor says, “Larry, you are 80 percent blocked in at least three of your major arteries.” What? Not me! I’ve been pretty healthy all my life. Why is this happening?

Turns out, it’s common. Heart attacks are the silent killer.

Then, a few days later I’m in the hospital again for open-heart surgery. Five hours of top medical professionals with my heart literally in their hands. To tell you I wasn’t nervous or scared beforehand would be a lie. The most difficult part? Letting go of Judy’s hand as the gurney began its journey.

Being wheeled into the operating room, I kept trying to figure out how I would photograph this. The blur of the ceiling going by, then a tight shot of the wheels. A moving shot with the nurse pulling me along followed by an over-the-shoulder shot of me lying on the warm traveling bed. Sound bites with the nurses and the natural sound of the doctors preparing would be perfect for the drama.

Then reality, as the cold blue of the operating room with nurses and doctors in masks and gloved raised hands appear as if a pagan ritual is about to take place. Only these participants are kind and reassuring with warm eyes and a soft caress. I feel something warm in my veins and I fade out.

Waking through fuzzy eyes I realize I’m still part of the earth. But everything is blurry and my body has become a rag doll that doesn’t respond to my bidding. And I begin to hurt. Here is the reason why; It wasn’t a triple or quadruple bypass - It was seven arteries that had to be replaced. SEVEN! It’s not unheard of, but it’s rare.

The next several months will be a learning experience. My doctors say I will be fine and back to my life in a couple of months. Actually, they say I will be much better than I was.

So how do I thank the people who saved my life? There they were, the surgeons and the great staff in the operating room. One surgeon said, “I held your heart in my hand.” I will never forget her words. Never, ever!

Then there were the caring and knowledgeable personnel both in the SICU and cardiac-rehabilitation part of the hospital. Nurses, whose images are forever imprinted on my mind, encouraged me at every level. They were warm, caring human beings and did everything they could to keep me calm and alive. I could not have asked for more. But how do I repay them? How do you thank these strangers who surrounded me with their professionalism and caring so that my life will carry on?

The only way I know is to help them spread their life-saving information. If we can save just one life, that might be the life that helps a hundred other people. If we can save just one life, it might be the life that finds solutions for climate change. If we can save just one life it might be the one who gives us the vision to coexist, to dream, and to create.

I write this not to get sympathy, (No cards, flowers or visits please) but to urge my friends to get checked out. If you are over 50 and haven’t had a stress test, get one. If you have family history of heart problems or any of the risk factors, see your doctor on a regular basis.

I’m alive, not because I’m smart, but because I am lucky. I had a symptom, went to the doctor….and did not become a statistic.

I’m doing fine, all is well. Right now, I’m healing and, of course, I plan to wrestle bears in just a few weeks. But please listen to your body. The signs may be subtle, but they can speak volumes.

I could have ignored my symptoms and put off the stress test.

If I had, I would be dead.

See the warning signs from American Heart Association - Kansas.

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