1. Headline
  1. Headline
DON HO
Don Margolis  /  AP
Hawaiian singer Don Ho, 75, smiles and gives a "shaka" hang-loose sign on Dec. 8, while recovering at a hospital after an experimental heart procedure in Bangkok, Thailand. Ho has returned to Honolulu his publicist said on Dec. 19.
updated 12/22/2005 7:47:31 PM ET 2005-12-23T00:47:31

Legendary Hawaiian crooner Don Ho says he could barely walk, let alone sing, and would have been a “goner” without an experimental stem cell procedure on his ailing heart earlier this month in Thailand.

Ho, known for his signature tune “Tiny Bubbles,” said he hopes to return to the stage soon.

“I’m feeling terrific, 100 percent better,” Ho told The Associated Press in one of his first interviews since surgery Dec. 6. “I’m ready to go, but I’ve got to listen to the doctors.

“When they say my heart is strong enough to get excited, I’m on.”

The 75-year-old singer underwent a new treatment that hasn’t been approved in the United States. It involves multiplying stem cells taken from his blood and injecting them into his heart in hopes of strengthening it.

“It was my last hope,” said Ho, who suffers from nonischemic cardiomyopathy — a weakened heart muscle not due to blockages in the coronary arteries.

The experimental procedure he underwent was developed by TheraVitae Co., which has offices in Thailand and laboratories in Israel, where Ho’s stem cells were sent to be multiplied. The therapy was supervised by Dr. Amit Patel, a heart surgeon from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Ho found out about it on the Internet.

“I knew that if I didn’t take things into my own hand, I would’ve been a goner,” he said.

His heart problems had been affecting him for about a year. He had a pacemaker implanted a few months ago, but still felt weak and tired after a few steps. Before the surgery, Ho said, his heart was operating at only 25 percent.

“You can’t fight Mother Nature. When you reach a certain age and you don’t really take care of yourself, then she’s going to give you a little signal,” Ho said.

  1. More Entertainment stories
    1. Autistic ballerina dances her way into hearts

      In a popular YouTube video, the beaming little ballerina dances an entire four-minute routine seemingly perfectly, matchin...

    2. Every on-screen drink in 'Mad Men' in 5 minutes
    3. See the 'Dancing' stars' most memorable moves
    4. Emmy's biggest snubs? Cranston, Hamm, more
    5. 'Toy Story' toys burn up in prank on mom

Ho has entertained tourists for more than four decades and hosted the “The Don Ho Show” on ABC in 1976-77.

He said his perspective on life has changed dramatically since the procedure. He now savors all the little things in life, like watching his children decorate the Christmas tree.

He also plans to continue entertaining in Waikiki.

“A lot of people out there come every year to get their ‘Tiny Bubbles’ fix,” he said. “So as long as they keep coming, I might as well keep doing it.

“I retired about 40 years ago. I’m just having fun.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Wong Yao-Wen / AP

    Passenger plane crashes in stormy Taiwan

    7/23/2014 3:21:32 PM +00:00 2014-07-23T15:21:32
  1. Probe finds no tampering With Malaysia jet black box

    There is no evidence that anyone tampered with the cockpit voice recorder — one of the two "black boxes" — recovered from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, investigators said Wednesday.

    7/23/2014 5:58:06 PM +00:00 2014-07-23T17:58:06
  1. Jenna Bush Hager: 5 things I've learned from my Gampy

    On his 90th birthday  I thought about how much I’ve learned from him.

    7/23/2014 10:43:31 AM +00:00 2014-07-23T10:43:31
  2. video George H.W. Bush talks to TODAY about turning 90

    video Check out the extended, full-length interview that President George H.W. Bush gave to his granddaughter, TODAY correspondent Jenna Bush Hager, around his 90th birthday parachute jump.

    7/3/2014 8:13:54 PM +00:00 2014-07-03T20:13:54
  3. video Barbara Bush to son: Your dad was the best president

    video TODAY correspondent Jenna Bush Hager talks with her grandmother, first lady Barbara Bush, and her father, President George W. Bush, about their picks for history’s best president and first lady.

    7/22/2014 8:17:09 PM +00:00 2014-07-22T20:17:09
  4. Courtesy of Jenna Bush Hager