Wednesday 17th June 2020
At the very height of the COVID-19 outbreak, retired postman and hospital worker, Lewis Benn, was awaiting treatment for severe aortic stenosis. Having been told he would have to wait till September, Lewis feared for his life, but thanks to the excellent work of Dr Dan Blackman and the team at Leeds General Infirmary, Lewis was admitted, treated and discharged over the course of just 3 days. Here, is his story.
“I started feeling very short of breath and I was having trouble walking up the stairs. I wasn’t feeling good at all, I couldn’t breath properly and could hardly walk about. Gradually I realised it was getting worse and so at the end of last year I went to see the doctor. I was referred to Dr Rashid at Halifax Hospital, who said I could go to Leeds for pioneering treatment, called TAVI.
I was put on the waiting list for TAVI at the beginning of the year, and then this virus started happening and I thought it was never going to happen. I was told I would be treated in September, I thought I was going to die. I was feeling so unwell, then I got the call saying they could do it.
I went in and was put on an isolation ward overnight, tested for the virus, which came back negative, and I had my operation the day after. They did it at 8.40am and then an hour and a half later I’m back in my hospital bed. The day after I came home, feeling like a different man - I thought, when I had a heart bypass i was in hospital for a week and here I am walking out the next day.
There were two consultants and a team of nurses doing the job. You’re awake all the time, its amazing. I just thought, you’ve gotta do these things if you wanna get well, you gotta put your life in the hands of the people who know what they’re doing.
I was worried before I went in. I’m going in to hospital and thats where it (the virus) all is. I was put in a ward all by myself, then tested, and I was clear. As soon as they told me I was clear to go, there’s no more hold ups - lets get it done. Nobody likes operations but I felt comfortable and safe - and they were absolutely brilliant.
Now I feel I can breathe. I can walk round the park gently, light exercise. My body is still a bit a weak, but I just feel so much better. It almost makes me cry, all the worry I had, thinking I'm going to die here if they don’t hurry up soon, can I last 6 months? Anyway, they got me in early and now I’m here with my wife and daughter feeling so much better. I cannot praise the team enough. They were incredible. What they did for me and my family, I’ll never be able to thank them enough.
That TAVI team deserve the world. They need to be praised to the world. When I was laid there, the nurse was talking to me reassuring me, they were absolutely amazing. At one point during the op she said “we’re just putting your valve in now”, and I thought blooming heck. All I felt was a bit of dizziness. They were amazing, everything they did my whole time there was incredible. What a superb team of people.
I had the pleasure of working in a hospital for the last 6 years of my working life, and I loved the sense of community there. They do so much for us all, they work so hard for us all, I’ll never be able to show my gratitude for what they’ve done for me and my family.”
Dr Blackman, ”Rapid treatment of symptomatic severe aortic stenosis is critical to the life of the patient; without treatment survival is poor. Because of this we have continued to offer trans-catheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) for patients like Mr Benn throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. We were able to assess Mr Benn via telephone consultation, perform TAVI under local anaesthetic, and discharge him home the following day. There was no requirement for a ventilator, ICU bed, or prolonged hospital stay. This approach therefore minimised both the risk to the patient from hospitalisation, and the use of pressured hospital resources during this uniquely challenging period."
Thank you Lewis for your incredible story. “Lewis is a perfect example of how trusts up and down the country have been able to utilise minimally invasive treatments to continue to treat valve disease patients safely during the COVID-19 outbreak. By reducing his stay in hospital, they were able to treat him whilst limiting the impact his treatment had on hospital resources and his risk of infection. Thank you to Lewis for sharing his story with us, and well done to Dr Blackman and the team at Leeds General Hospital for their incredible work.” Heart Valve Voice CEO Wil Woan