Hansen Watkins had always been active but he became listless. Cardiologists found Watkins had a leaky valve.
Blood was seeping back into his lungs, drowning him.
Since he had a history of heart problems, Hanson was considered too weak for surgery.
He had an experimental mitral valve clip attached to his faulty valve.
"This is an early attempt to repair structural disease, things wrong with the valves and the muscles, with catheters, without resorting to open heart," said Dr. Ken Kent, Washington Hospital Center.
The tiny device is delivered through an artery in the leg up to the heart and placed on the leaky valve to close it.
The surgery takes about two hours.
A recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found patients have not had any major side effects from the device.