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Dr. Larry Klein was an obstetrician and gynecologist who spent most of his 40-year career at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.

 

(Courtesy of Stacy Yeany)

By HILLARY DAVISSTAFF WRITER 

JULY 31, 2020

 

8:24 PM

Dr. Larry Klein delivered 5,000 babies, mostly at Hoag Hospital, over a 40-year career. In the same hospital, on July 17, he died of COVID-19.

Lawrence Erwin Klein, 86, was fit, sharp, and proudly independent, his daughters said. Though he gave up driving about two years ago, the widower called on Lyft to get him around and he did all his own shopping and much of his own cooking. But the retired obstetrician and gynecologist was a voracious reader who understood the medical significance of the novel coronavirus. He also had a well-managed heart condition. He took the emerging crisis seriously, and agreed to self-isolate inside his Newport Coast home in early March, even before Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the statewide shutdown.

Friends delivered his groceries. He took walks near his condominium. He set, and met, a goal of going back out into public on June 15.

“He was not reckless,” said his youngest of four children, Keri Bernstein, from her New York home. “He wore a mask.” She said they will never know how he got the virus.

He went shopping and ate on a restaurant patio. He received a few visitors. But by June 26 he was showing signs of illness, and on July 5, a Sunday, he was admitted to Hoag at the urging of a close friend and colleague, Dr. Joe Riggio.

Bernstein said her father’s health improved at first. He received Remdesivir, and his care team was considering physical therapy. But that Thursday, his health declined sharply. It was a cytokine storm, and it battered his body with inflammation and pneumonia.

His doctors determined that the virus had damaged his body so much that even if he recovered, he would never be the same. As Klein had made clear in advanced directives — and verbally upon his final hospital admission — he did not want any extraordinary lifesaving measures or diminished quality of life. His family agreed to palliative care.

He was on hospice for two hours and 45 minutes, said Stacy Klein Yeany, another daughter.

Because Hoag still allows visitors in the hospice ward, Yeany came up from her home in the San Diego area and sat with him as he passed. Other family members said their goodbyes over FaceTime. His death was unexpected but peaceful. He was a week shy of his 87th birthday.

“He could have been around for another 10 years,” said Yeany, 61. “He got robbed, no question about it. We would have loved to have him around for another decade and he probably had it in him, genetically. But he didn’t get it.”

But Yeany said it gives her some comfort that her father didn’t linger in a precarious state.

Yeany said her father’s gift for listening made him a great doctor. His ear-to-ear grin and distinct Texas twang helped.

Klein was born July 24, 1933, and grew up in a hardscrabble Jewish neighborhood in south Dallas. He played football at the University of Texas-Austin and became a gym teacher and physical therapist upon graduation. Physical therapy led to an interest in medicine, and he enrolled at UT-Southwestern Medical School.

Klein was working at Parkland Memorial Hospital on Nov. 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was shot. The medical student was one of the first to see the mortally wounded president.

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