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Man's every heartbeat is new record

Herbert Carrington, age 106, is the oldest living survivor of heart valve replacement surgery.

Published June 16, 2005

TAMPA - At 106, Herbert Carrington has seen world records come and go. But he never dreamed he would set one of his own.

Carrington is unofficially - for now, at least - the oldest living survivor of heart valve replacement surgery. At a Wednesday ceremony at St. Joseph's Hospital, he signed paperwork for Guinness World Records. Now all that remains is for the Guinness officials to certify the record.

"I never thought I would live to be in it," Carrington said. "It's quite an honor."

In 1994, Carrington had surgery to replace the aortic valve in his heart, which had narrowed to the point of nearly closing, said Dennis Pupello, his cardiac surgeon at St. Joseph's.

The hospital checked recently with Guinness book officials to see if anyone older than Carrington was living with a transplanted valve, said Ann Clanton, Pupello's administrative assistant. They told her there wasn't yet such a category.

Clanton said she was told that if Carrington's age could be certified, he would be entered in the book. But Carrington's birth certificate was long lost.

"We found a copy of the 1910 census," Clanton said.

Pupello said Carrington is fortunate to even have had the surgery.

He was 95 at the time.

"At my age people though I was crazy to have that operation, but I went through with flying colors," Carrington said. "My family was scared to death."

Often, doctors do not want to perform the surgery on older patients because they think medical resources should go to candidates who are likely to live longer, Pupello said.

"If a patient is active and their mind is bright and they don't have any signs of senile dementia, then their age per se should not deny them treatment that is offered to anybody else," he said.

He said Carrington fit those criteria, and still does.

"I think he's doing as well as any patient I have ever done."

Carrington has always showed an energy that belied his age. Even without his entry into the Guinness book, he is a local legend. Born in October 1898, he moved to Tampa in 1917 and never left. He is best known for years he spent as maitre d' at the Tampa Yacht Club. He started working there in 1942 and retired in 2002. He worked part-time until last year.

And he is dating a younger woman, Carrington said at the news conference. She is 85.

His son, Herbert Carrington Jr., said his father still drives a black 1998 Oldsmobile Intrigue.

"His license is good until 2006," the son said.

As for his longevity, Carrington would be hard-pressed to credit a healthy diet.

"I eat most anything I want," he said. "I like grits and bacon and sausage every morning. Now that's a good breakfast."

[Last modified June 16, 2005, 00:40:20]

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