Monday 8th June 2020
At the very height of the COVID-19 outbreak former military man and lifelong adventurer, Jim Gibson was admitted to hospital with decompensated heart failure. Despite the pressures exerted on our NHS by COVID-19, and thanks to the work Dr Robert Smith and his team at Harefield Hospital, Jim was able to receive an innovative treatment that clips the mitral valve, and in a few short days was discharged home to be with his loving family.
Here is Jim's story:
I've had problems with my ticker for a long time, and I love an adventure, but even for me, this was quite a journey. It definitely gives going to the Antarctic on holiday a run for its money.
My story probably starts in 1985, when I began to get terrible chest pain at work. I went to the doctor, and he couldn't believe the state my heart was in, and he sent me to Southampton, where I had five bypasses in one hit. Three weeks after, I was out in Dubai working again!!
Since then I've always had regular check-ups on my heart, and I had a pacemaker fitted about eight years ago, but things took a turn last November when I was visiting family in Tasmania. I went to pick up a case, and I got this shooting pain in my chest. I knew something wasn't right, so I booked a flight home the next day. I went straight to see my clinician, and they told me I needed a procedure but it was not widely used on the NHS.
They sent me to Swindon to be assessed, but the Consultant told me they were not able to do it, but lucky for me Dr Smith was. I was in despair at first - I thought no one wanted to touch me. But then came Dr Smith and his team, and what a marvellous man. The care and concern that Dr Smith and his team showed me before, during and after my treatment are extraordinary. These people have an incredible passion for care. It's overwhelming.
People often ask if I was worried about COVID-19, but to be honest, I wasn't at all. Everyone was so professional, and I just knew I was in the right place and the right hands. Everything at Harefield is immaculate. They're working under incredible pressure, and they are still able to make you feel safe and comfortable. I would just say to people waiting for treatment, trust your health service, they will not let you down.
I know a lot of people have to wait for this treatment, and because of COVID-19 there have been delays and disruptions, so I know I am lucky to have got it. My heart was in a bad way, so Dr Smith felt like he had to make a move - and I am so glad he did.
I was taken in from home, treated and then discharged in just a few days. And, despite some underlying health issues, I feel absolutely fabulous. If I didn't have this sinus problem, I'd feel like a 21-year-old again.
There is nothing I wouldn't do for those people. Nothing is too much for them. They were incredible. Even now, their care and concern is overwhelming - they call me regularly to check I'm ok and see how my recovery is. And what fantastic treatment, to be home with my family feeling like I do after just a few days is incredible. It's bringing a tear to my eye just thinking about it.
You only get one heart, and mine has definitely been battered around a bit, but knowing there are people like this and treatments like this is inspiring. Now I'm just looking forward to the new life that they've given me with my family. I can spend time with my family now, and when this stuff is over, I can go on another adventure. Maybe Antarctic Round 2."
Thank you, Jim, for your valve disease story. “ It’s hard to believe that despite quicker recovery and strong patient outcomes this innovative treatment is still difficult to access with huge geographical inequalities its use in the UK. It’s a terrible shame more patients aren't provided with this option” said Wil Woan, CEO of Heart Valve Voice.
Stories like this should give comfort and confidence to anyone waiting for valve disease treatment that healthcare teams across the country are doing all that they can to deliver for valve disease patients.