Just as Larry Eubanks began gearing up for retirement, his body slowly began gearing down. At 59-years old, he tired easily, was often short of breath and noticed his heart was literally pounding.
"The only symptom that I ever had was having a very hard heartbeat. There was no pain or cardiac problems other than that."
An EKG revealed an atrial septal defect, or a hole in the heart.
He was referred to Dr. Debais Das at St. Vincent Heart Clinic of Arkansas. "An atrial septal defect is a birth defect. You are born with it. Normally, the two upper chambers of the heart are separated by a partition. If you have a hole, it can lead to shunting of blood from the left upper chamber to the right upper chamber."
Eubanks says, "I thought, what could be done with it? I thought we would have do to surgery. Dr. Jordan said no problem with this, this can be fixed very easily."
Since the defect was large, Dr. Das decided to close the hole to prevent further complications.
Instead of the traditional open heart surgery, he was able to use a less invasive procedure through cardiac catheterization.
"We approach this hole from a vein in the groin of the patient. Through a small tube, we attach this device that opens up on one side of the defect, then release the other side. Then we unscrew the device and that closes the hole in the heart. Over an amount of time, the small skin grows over the device and that seals up the hole in the heart."
Eubanks wasn't having problems at the time, but was going to have problems in a few years, because the hole would have continued to enlarge, causing him to lose more blood.
"If you had a blood clot, it could pass right through there to your brain or veins and cause a stroke."
Other than a check-up every six months, it's back to the farm and back to normal for Eubanks.
It's not known why atrial septal defects occur, but congenital heart defects appear to run in families and sometimes occur with other genetic problems, such as down syndrome.