Dave Swanton’s Mitral Valve Disease Story

Dave Swanton was first diagnosed with heart valve disease in 2018. Fast-forward to 2020, and Dave’s condition had deteriorated. Due to the pressures of Covid, he was told he would need to wait for surgery, but was advised to seek medical help immediately if his symptoms change – which is exactly what he did. Thanks to the work by the incredible teams in Chorley, Preston and Blackpool, Dave is now back home and relishing the new lease of life he has be afforded.

This is his story:

“I was first taken in in March 2018. I was having a cup of coffee at home, and I was watching a squirrel in the backyard, and I thought, ‘christ my heart is going a bit quick.’ It was bouncing. They took me into Chorley Hospital, who said I had a problem with my mitral valve. So then I was medicated for all of  18, 19, 20 – with regular checkups.

Then I went to my GP last September, and the nurse did my blood pressure. She said it was high irrespective of my medication. And she did an ECG, which went through to Blackpool Hospital, where a clinician realised I was having atrial fibrillation.

I got a call from Dr Schofield, who said they were referring me to Mr Zacharias. He called at the start of November and said I needed an angiogram. I had that on December 9th, and then Mr Zacharias rang and said my arteries look ok but the atrial fibrillation and mitral valve are a problem, and he wanted to get me into Blackpool for a CT.

This was at the height of Covid in December, so I was going to have to wait. Mr Zacharias said, ‘if you have any problems at all, take yourself to A&E in Preston.’

Then, during January my feet started to swell. So I went to Hospital in February, and their cardiac team said, wow, this a big problem. So I was in Preston, and they did all sorts of tests and then got me ready to go to Blackpool.

I went over to Blackpool by ambulance on the 16th of February. The team at Royal Preston Hospital was exceptional. I contacted Karen Partington to ask her to pass on my ‘hearty’ thanks for looking after me and preparing me for surgery.

The following morning in Blackpool, Mr Zacharias came to see me, and said we can’t wait any longer we need to do this operation – and we’re gonna do it tomorrow morning. I wasn’t at all worried about the operation as I knew my life would improve, and having Mr Zacharias running things after hearing so many great tributes to him, I knew I was in good hands.

Mr Zacharias explained everything to me in ‘bite-sized chunks’ so I understood exactly what was happening. He said, if I’m gonna put a new valve in, I’m gonna give you a choice. He said I could have a mechanical one that will last 30 years or the biological one. And he said that was my choice, and I chose the biological valve.

Before any heart surgery can be done, the preparation covers so many things including the teeth … yes, the teeth.  Apparently, there is a link between the teeth and the heart, and thankfully for me, everything was in good condition.

After the operation was complete, I was gently woken and saw all the wires and cannulas in place.

Wow, what has happened?

The surgery had been the non-intrusive “endoscopic” type where the scar was very small, and while I had stitches in place, it was better than having been opened up fully! Within 24 hours the physios arrived and asked me to get out of bed to do a bit of walking around.

With being admitted with oedema in my ankles and feet, I had to shed the fluid quickly. Water pills helped, and I shed two stones in just over a week.

The big problem was clothes, as I had lost eight inches off my waist, and my chest size had shrunk from a 46 to a 36.

After being discharged, I was in rehab and was really well looked after and started to put weight back on.

I am still about ten kilograms under my normal weight, but I don’t think that is a bad thing, and I am now eating sensibly as well as doing some walking.

Building everything up is a challenge but one that I am prepared to take thanks to Chorley/Preston and Blackpool Hospitals and the NHS.

My journey started at Chorley, then to Preston and then to Blackpool. And between the three, they have done a fantastic job. They gave me another chance. Before I went in at the start of February, turning my laptop computer on was an effort. Walking 20 steps to the bathroom was a serious effort. Just a few steps and I was gasping for air. I couldn’t breathe. I was dying.

Now, I have so much to look forward to in 2021 and beyond. Sport, fishing, swimming and walking are all on the agenda as I look forward to every day now when I wake up.

There are far too many people I need to thank for giving me this new lease of life, and I intend in some way of paying them back. Mr Zacharias, well, If the NHS could clone him, it would be absolutely brilliant. What a nice man. Great sense of humour and just a lovely, lovely man. He explained it to me every stage and guided me through every step.

One thing I would say to anyone reading this is do not let any fear of Covid stop you from getting medical help. If you’re sick, just go. That’s what I did, and now I’m back home and building back. My enthusiasm for work is back, and I’m driving again, walking the dog again, and enjoying life my life and my future again.”

Dave’s Surgeon, Mr Joseph Zacharias said, “It was a real pleasure to see that the NHS, with all the staff involved over three hospitals, were seamlessly able to provide cutting edge treatment at the height of the second wave for Mr Swanton. Dave had an endoscopic double valve (mitral and tricuspid) repair and atrial fibrillation ablation and it is very rewarding for the whole team to read about his recovery and aspirations for the future. Two aspects stand out in Dave’s story, the first that timely treatment for heart valve disease is effective and life-changing and secondly, everyday teams across the region, are providing high levels of care, safely, despite the pressures of the pandemic. I hope this story will give confidence to others to access health care when required.”

“8 weeks post-op and my scar is healing perfectly, which is a credit to Mr Zacharias and his brilliant team.”

Dave Swanton

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