How a health kick revealed a serious heart condition

How a health kick revealed a serious heart condition

James' story

When the UK went into lockdown in March 2020, like millions of others, 56-year-old House Manager James took the opportunity to introduce some simple daily exercise into his busy work schedule. Little did he know that the changes would reveal a hidden heart condition, that would require a triple heart bypass to fix.

After introducing some new exercises into his daily routine, James started to experience what felt like bad indigestion pains and decided to contact his GP. As he had no other warning signs of heart disease or pre-existing heart conditions, his GP suspected mild angina, and referred him to The Wellington Hospital for an angiogram to check his blood flow and coronary arterial function.

During his angiogram, a catheter was inserted through James’ blood vessels and a special type of contrast dye was passed through to highlight any blocked or narrowed arteries. The angiogram revealed that all four of James’ arteries were blocked, and his Cardiothoracic Surgeon Roberto Casula advised he was going to urgently need a triple bypass procedure.

The personal touches that helped James prepare for surgery

When you hear the words – ‘urgent bypass’ – it resonates right through to your bones. It’s horrifying. But the nurses, the consultants, in fact the whole team were so empathetic 

James

He remembers feeling a hand on his shoulder. “It was the porter who was taking me back to my room, he smiled and said, ‘you’re going to be fine.’ It felt so kind, and reassuring. That human touch you get at each step, the encouragement and support – it all adds up and helps you get through it.” 

Given the urgency of the operation, James was relieved to be booked in straightaway for the procedure. Just ten day later, James returned as an inpatient and underwent a successful bypass procedure. He then spent three days in intensive care being carefully monitored, before being moved to a private room to recover and begin his rehabilitation under the care of a specialist respiratory and cardiac physiotherapist.

Individualised rehabilitation and support plan

During his recovery and rehabilitation, the physio team visited James nearly every day, getting him up and walking again around the ward as quickly as possible with lots of encouragement and support. It was tough at first but within six days James was ready to go home. “It was very hard for me in those first few days,” says James. “I couldn’t have done it on my own. But the physios constantly motivated me – and I’m so grateful to them.”

The team also ensured James was well prepared for returning home and continuing his rehabilitation. As well as his medication, he was given information packs – from next steps to long-term advice, including dietary and lifestyle changes. “The rehabilitation team were on-hand all the time, checking in. They’d ask about my mood, if I’d shaved that day, they really took so much time to ensure I was feeling physically and mentally well”.

Happier and healthier than ever

James has continued to follow the advice and has adopted a healthier lifestyle: “I have lost just over two stone, I watch what I eat, I do plenty of walking and I feel fantastic.” He’s now back at work and is hugely grateful for the care he received. “It’s one of the best equipped hospitals in the world. But it’s only as good as the people who operate the equipment, and that’s who I’m most grateful for,” James tells us. 

From the day I arrived for my angiogram, to the moment I was discharged, I was treated like royalty. Everyone I came into contact with – from the consultants, the ICU teams, the physios and the nurses, to the catering staff – they all went out of their way to be kind and supportive.

James

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