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The Heart of a Runner

February 05, 2018

It’s a life on the run for Larry Allen, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Larry’s dedication to the sport of long distance running earned him a coveted spot in the Maine Running Hall of Fame. Yet as he rose the ranks, he always kept pace with another top performer: sports cardiologist Dr. Paul Thompson.

“His name as a top class regional runner in New England was always there, and I was always impressed, and I just remembered it,” Larry said.

And it’s a good thing he did.

On January 12, 2016, Larry had trouble finishing what was a typical workout: a seven-mile run. An emergency visit to a New York City hospital discovered a near-complete heart blockage, requiring he undergo immediate surgery to implant a pacemaker.

The surgery, however, was only partially successful. While Larry felt better, but still wasn’t able to run. He needed to find a trusted cardiologist who could help him get to the bottom of the issue.

“Suddenly the bell went off in my head one afternoon, and I remembered Dr. Thompson,” Larry said.

He tracked down Dr. Thompson, who as now the co-physician-in-chief of the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute.

“No matter whether a person is as famous as Larry is or as good a runner or they’re just a jogger, we give them the absolute best¬† we can so that they can return to the life that they want to live,” said Dr. Thompson, who agreed to take on Larry’s case.

After looking over the case, Dr. Thompson brought in Hartford Hospital electrophysiologist Dr. Steven Zweibel to take a closer look at Larry’s pacemaker.

“I had a feeling there was something about how the pacemaker was programmed that was limiting his function,” said Dr. Zweible. “I committed to him that I would work with him for as long as it took.”

In this case, timing was everything.

“Turning off that algorithm actually fixed his heart, and got (Larry) back to his normal state of running,” said Dr. Zweibel.

Learn more about the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute here.