Elmer Belden joined the army at age 15 after his mother signed his enlistment form.
He served in the Coast Guard and later in the Merchant Navy, Army and Air Force. He danced with Marilyn Monroe in New York at a USO show and accidentally met General Douglas MacArthur while he was in Tokyo setting up a forward base after World War II.
His adventures do not stop when his military service ends. Later he raced cars at the Sports Drome in Clarksville and eventually retired from Brown & Williamson.
Now he has added to his list of lifetime achievements. He became the first patient to undergo structural heart surgery in Baptist Health Louisville’s new CVOR/Hybrid Operating Room.
The first patient case, an open-heart procedure, was performed on February 21 by Dr. Sebastian Pagni.
Under the care of Dr. Pagni and Dr. William Dillon, New Albany resident Belden had a stent placed two weeks ago and on March 8 underwent a Trans Catheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) procedure in the hybrid operating room. The day before he was discharged from the hospital, Belden was also given a pacemaker.
Although he was grateful for the care he received at Baptist Health Louisville, the only thing on his mind was to get home in time to watch his beloved basketball team. Indiana play its Big Ten tournament opener against Michigan.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’m just ready to go home.”
He continues to drive and bowl twice a week in a league, which he hopes to resume in the fall.
“I hope so,” he said of his return to bowling. “I don’t know how long it will be.”
He ranked as the first structural heart patient in the new hybrid operating room right up there with dancing with Monroe and meeting General MacArthur.
“Everything was there (OR) was new. The doctors said he had everything,” he said.
The new hybrid operating room is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment, including a Philips Azurion 7 M20/Flex Arm, which allows surgeons and interventional cardiologists to perform all types of procedures, from cardiac catheterization to heart surgery open.
He praised the staff, including nurses Caitlyn, Nancy, Chris and Rebecca, and the two Drs. Dillon and Pagni.
“They’ve all been great,” he said.
His son, Steve, also said the staff went ‘beyond the way’ to look after his father.
“They couldn’t have been more kind and caring,” he said. “They really took great care of him. They hired him and me…they were just very hospitable.
Steve also said his dad got released in time to watch the Indiana basketball game!