Wednesday 26th May 2021
Today, Leyland-based Dave Swanton, 64, became the face of national heart charity, Heart Valve Voice’s, #JustGo campaign as he urged heart patients to put their heart health first or risk worse outcomes. With an estimated 100,000 fewer heart operations car- ried out in 2020, it is feared that patients are reporting to hospital sicker, having masked or hidden symptoms due to Covid.
Dave acknowledges that early this year he was dying of heart valve disease without being fully aware of the severity of his situation.
“At the start of February, turning my laptop computer on was an effort, walking 20 steps to the bathroom was a serious effort, and after just a few steps I was gasping for air,” Dave recalls. “I couldn’t breathe; I was dying of heart valve disease.”
Fortunately, Dave was so concerned by his condition he contacted his local hospital, a move that saved his life. “I would say to anyone, 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, I’m driving again, walking the dog again, and enjoying my life and my future again.”
Heart valve disease affects approximately 1.5 million people in the UK.2 Patients experience fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, and if left untreated, severe aortic stenosis, the most common form of heart valve disease, is fatal within two years of diagnosis. It’s estimated that it kills 4 times as many people as COVID19 in a year. However, once treated patients can return to a good quality of life, largely free of symptoms.
Heart Valve Voice CEO, Wil Woan, said “Dave’s story gives us a clear and simple message. If you have a heart problem, now is the time to reflect on the last six months and ask yourself “am I more breathless? Am I feeling sicker? If the answer is yes, just go. With heart conditions, every minute counts. If you have breathlessness, chest pain or other heart symptoms – you must call an ambulance. Equally, if you are living with a heart condition and if you are experiencing new or worsening symptoms contact your doctor or go to a hospital as soon as possible.”
Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, Mr Joseph Zacharias, said “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.”
In an attempt to protect the NHS, healthcare delivery in the UK focused on the short-term impact of the pandemic. iv With the NHS under immense strain, non-urgent elective operations such as heart procedures have been postponed, leading to patients’ health deteriorating. While elective surgeries are increasing, hospitals are concerned that patients are let- ting their fear of Covid stop them from seeking urgent medical help, with many patients reporting to the hospital sicker.
Heart valve disease patients have poor overall survival without treatment and longer waiting times lead to worse outcomes as delays past their optimal treatment window negate the benefit of timely treatment.