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The Larry King Interview (Page 2 of 3)

"King of Hearts"
An Interview with Larry King

LK: In February of 1987, I had a heart attack, and subsequently in December of 1987, I needed quintuple bypass surgery. About a year later when I was recovering—I stopped smoking and began to take care of myself when I never had before—we were sitting around and someone asked me how much it had cost. I had no idea because insurance covered it all. So I investigated and found out it was about $48 thousand and then someone said, “What about people who can’t afford it because they don’t have any insurance?” So we started an organization on a small scale called the Larry King Cardiac Foundation for those people who have no insurance or have just fallen through the cracks. The first year we helped an overweight high school coach get a new heart. That started it. Now, we put on two major events a year—one in Washington, D.C. and one in Los Angeles. We have major stars like Celine Dion. Every top star that you can think of has performed. It’s been unbelievable. We give the money, and we’ve helped over 300 people either get a new heart or heart procedure. We help children, people from other countries, and we’ve donated equipment to hospitals. Our goal is to save a heart a day. The advantage of it is that you see the person you help. It doesn’t go to research. It goes directly to help the doctors pick out people who are eligible. We work with various hospitals, and I am lucky enough to make the call to tell the people that we’re going to do the procedure for them or their children.

GB: How can a caregiver reach out to your organization?

LK: They can go to the website at or they can write to us. The website gives them all the contact information. They write to us or the doctor writes for them that they need this procedure, and that they are not covered for it or don’t have insurance. The doctor presents the case. Then a panel of doctors and cardiologists reviews the case and makes recommendations to the Board who makes the choice. The process works pretty quickly. We do some of it over the phone. We pick the party and the hospital does the surgery. We enlist the doctors. All of them cut their rates so we can do as many people as possible.

GB: And you’ve got a very impressive Board.

LK: Yes, we’ve got an impressive Board. A lot of people work for us. At our dinner in Washington, D.C., we really pour it on. We get a lot of help. It’s the most gratifying thing I’ve ever done—helping people. There’s no bigger kick than making that call. Then we visit the patients. Another thing is that if you come to the dinner, you get to see the patients. We fly them in or bring them to the dinner. It’s very rewarding.

GB: How can people support the mission of the foundation?

LK: You can come to the dinners. I donate the royalties from my books and I give a percentage of the proceeds from the speeches I give. But people can help by going directly to the website.

GB: And people can donate there?

LK: Yes, people can donate right there to the Larry King Cardiac Foundation. Corporations back us pretty well. FedEx contributes as does the drug company Lilly. So we have some corporations behind us. The Washington Redskins are very active as well.

GB: Statistics are showing that  36% of caregivers will die before their loved ones do, and I was wondering if you had any advice for caregivers to become heart healthy.


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