Cincinnati radio legend Bill Cunningham is vowing to “be a better man” after health complications had him standing “at death’s door,” as he put it.
Cunningham was off the air for several days earlier this month after undergoing a transcatheter aortic valve replacement at Cincinnati’s Christ Hospital. He had a malfunctioning aortic valve, making it difficult for blood to travel to his heart, and initially thought he might need open heart surgery.
But Cunningham found Dr. Dean Kereiakes at Christ Hospital who was able to offer a more innovative procedure through a clinical research trial.
“Bill was able to get this valve—the SAPIEN 3, or a low surgical risk—through a clinical research trial,” Kereiakes told WLWT. The outlet sat down with Cunningham on April 11 for his first interview since the procedure.
“I knew this table could become a coffin,” Cunningham said. “You kind of reevaluate where you are, and I want to try to be a better man, if I can … a better father, better husband, better grandpa. That’s what I want to be.”
“This is serious—life and death. And when you stand at death’s door and turn around and walk back toward life, that’s what I feel like. I had this second chance at life. I didn’t know I was that bad,” the 71-year-old said, thanking his wife Penny for urging him to see a doctor.
Cunningham’s procedure was completed April 4, and he was back on the air a week later and had Kereiakes on the program as one of his first guests.
“Christ Hospital and Dr. Dean Kereiakes are beyond amazing. This is a medical miracle happening daily,” Cunningham wrote on Twitter shortly after the procedure. “Heartfelt thanks for all the prayers and well wishes.”
Heart valve surgery.. Thursday at 11am… Home.. Friday at noon.. Christ Hosp and Dr Dean Kereiakis are beyond amazing..This is a medical miracle happening daily.. Told to keep a low profile for..7 days..Heartfelt thanks for all the prayers and well wishes..Thank you.. Thank you.
— Bill Cunningham (@Willie700WLW) April 6, 2019
Cunningham’s first day back on 700 WLW featured a wide-ranging interview with Kereiakes, who said that through “miniaturization of the technology and advancements in the technique,” aortic valve replacement has become “a drive-through procedure.”
“I wanted to help people. I sincerely wanted to help people, and I was fascinated with the heart. The heart is kind of the center of the being, at least that’s the way I look at it. So that was the most important thing to do,” Kereiakes said when describing why he decided to enter his line of work.
His full interview with Cunningham can be listened to here.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Bill Cunningham” by WLWT.