Fighting Heart Disease, One Step at a Time

February 1, 2015

Larry Kelly, center, surrounded by Hammons

Heart staff members, from left, Susan Johnsen,

Susie Strozewski, John Binder and Debbie Dorshorst

By Mercy's Madelynn Innes

Larry Kelley doesn’t particularly like exercising, but he does it anyway – even as much as three times every week. “I like living,” he exclaimed. “And I believe in being proactive in order to beat the odds.”

At 61, Larry has already faced uncertain odds. Four years ago he suffered a heart attack and soon after he learned that one of his arteries was 100 percent blocked. It required surgery. As surgeons were placing the stint to open up the blockage, Larry suffered a stroke. "As I recovered in the hospital I remember feeling calm. There wasn’t anything I could do, but I knew I had to get through it, so I just prayed.”

Larry didn’t suffer permanent damage, and he’s back to work in the Plant Operations department at Mercy Hospital Springfield. But at his age, Larry has lived longer than his dad and brother, who both died of heart disease. Rather than sit around and wait to see if he’d have a second attack like they did, Larry decided to fight back.

“I started phase one of our cardiac rehab program at Hammons Heart Institute,” he explained. “After that, I got into phase two, and now I’m enrolled in phase three. I know I have to keep it up. The heart is just like a big muscle, and you have to exercise it. Besides, I feel a lot better when I do, and it helps lower my blood sugar.”

Larry also has type 2 diabetes, which often goes hand-in-hand with heart disease. More than a year ago, he heard about a clinical trial through the Mercy Medical Research Institute involving a drug for people with type 2 diabetes who’ve also had heart trouble. He would be required to come in for blood work every few weeks over the next three to four years, but Larry was quick to volunteer. “Like I said, I believe in being proactive. If the trial uncovers something that does a better job of reducing my blood sugar, I’m all for it.”

According to the research institute, there is another trial coming up in which they’re looking for volunteers with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues. If you’re interested in participating in this important research, call 417-841-0250.

Join the Fight Against Heart Disease

For a lot of us, heart disease has robbed us of our moms and dads and other people we love, and there’s no greater sadness than not being able to bring them back. If you’ve been touched by heart disease, perhaps it could give you a measure of peace to take a stand against it in honor of those you’ve lost.

April 11 is Southwest Missouri’s Heart Walk in Springfield. Funds raised support local medical research and educational programs of the American Heart Association. In 2010, Mercy was the top fundraising company of our area Heart Walk, but since then, our participation has dropped off. Let’s stand together again and fight against heart disease!

You can walk as an individual participant or form smaller teams among co-workers and friends, all as part of a large Mercy Heart Walk team. To form or join a team, contact Pam Holt at 417-841-5695 or