100-year-old SoCal woman celebrates success of new heart valve procedure

Monday, June 26, 2017 09:40PM
Open heart surgery is a conventional way to treat a leaky mitral valve, but doctors knew Kato would never survive such a surgery. Then they met interventional cardiologist Dr. Saibal Kar who was inventing a new device called a MitraClip.


BRENTWOOD, LOS ANGELES - A Brentwood woman survived insurmountable odds to reach her 100th birthday.

At age 92, doctors told Dr. Kato Pomer she wouldn't survive long from an acute heart valve rupture, but she and her family refused to give up.

"One hundred," Pomer said at her birthday celebration. "Oh my god."

Dr. Kato Pomer invited friends, family and even her doctors to her home to celebrate her special day.

Pomer's heart issues started eight years ago when her mitral valve ruptured while she was hiking.

"When she arrived at Cedars, Dr. Kar told me she wasn't in critical condition," said Karen Pomer, her daughter. "She was dying."

One approach to treat leaky mitral valves is open heart surgery, but doctors knew Pomer would never survive it.

Dr. Saibal Kar at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center was researching a way to help.

A new device called the MitraClip was an alternative to surgery, but it was still undergoing clinical trials.

"When I did her procedure, I hadn't done someone so high-risk," Kar said. "I was very skeptical."

Despite the odds of the procedure, Kar wanted to try, and Pomer wanted to fight.

"My daughter urged me too," Pomer said.

Through a catheter, Kar attached the device to Pomer's leaky valve. He said the clip helps the valve close more completely to restore normal blood flow to the heart.

"Her leakage went from severe to trivial," he said. "She improved dramatically within one day."

Pomer recovered and kept working as a psychiatrist until the age of 94. She even took up painting.


After moving to the U.S. from Holland in the 1940s, with only $10 in her pocket, Kato blazed trails as a medical student, pediatrician and then psychiatrist.

Now after her successful procedure, she's even helped in getting the device FDA approved.

"She definitely opened the door, not only for me, but for the rest of the patients in the country," Kar said.

Pomer's advice for living a long, meaningful life?

"I just would tell them: 'Don't give up,'" she said.
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