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Peter and Mr Sabetai

Peter Robinson's Heart Valve Disease Story

Tuesday 8th August 2017

Peter Robinson never thought he had any heart problems even during Christmas 2016 when he noticed he was having some difficulties with his breathing and tightness in his chest. He assumed it was his asthma and a reaction to the dry city air of London where he was working - not heart valve disease. That was until his breathing became a chore and his heartburn was unbearable. After being incorrectly informed there wasn’t much chance he would survive, Peter is now feeling better than ever after receiving a new state of the art heart valve. This is Peter’s heart valve story.

Peter, a 60 year old from Kent has always kept himself busy and active. He works full-time at the London Southbank University as a Laboratory Technician and loves nothing more than spending time with his wife and family. His health had never been a real issue until he noticed a problem with his breathing after Christmas, he felt his chest was becoming tight and it was hard to take a breath. By the end of January 2017, he had to resort to sleeping on the settee as he was finding it difficult to lie flat on his back in bed without needing to catch his breath. Peter’s first thought was that it had to be his asthma and heart valve disease was the furthest thing from his mind as he knew nothing about it.

Things started to take a turn for Peter on the 21 January when after having a hot bath, he found he could barely breathe, he assumed his asthma was getting worse. His wife was becoming increasingly concerned and phoned for a paramedic to come to their home. Despite Peter’s insistence that he was fine, an ECG indicated that he needed to go to the hospital.

After attending A&E at his local hospital the doctors diagnosed Peter with a Lower Respiratory Tract Infection and an Acute Coronary Syndrome and was sent home 24 hours later. As time went on, Peter was referred for tests and his experience did not improve. He and his wife were left in the dark through most of the diagnostic tests including an Echocardiogram in February where they were told he had slight problem, but it could probably be treated with drugs. They heard nothing further until Peter received a letter for an appointment with a Cardiac Consultant in April. Yet he had still not been informed of any known problems with his heart.

In Peter’s words, he lived in ‘blissful ignorance’ for the next few weeks, unconcerned about anything especially since the local hospital didn’t seem to think there was a serious problem. Little did he realise, the problem was only getting worse. His breathlessness continued as well as the heart burn and walking more than 100 yards was becoming a chore as he had to keep stopping to catch his breath. This was not like Peter and despite his insistence that he was fine, his wife was very concerned. Peter would soon find out that ignorance is not always bliss, especially when it comes to your health.

On the morning of the 21 April, Peter found himself in A&E after his symptoms became unbearable. This time, things were serious and he was admitted to the Cardiac ward and seen by various consultants and doctors where he was told there was a problem with his aorta and he would eventually be transferred to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London. In the meantime, he stayed in the local hospital for two weeks and his concern soon turned to depression. As each doctor came by for rounds, they didn’t seem to offer any comfort and continued to keep Peter and his wife with no explanation on his condition. One doctor in particular claimed that his problem was very serious and he would most likely not survive which only made Peter fall into a deeper depression, not to mention devastate his wife and family.

On the 7 May, Peter was finally transferred to St Thomas’ where things seemed to change for the better. On Becket Ward, the staff were very professional, friendly and always available to speak to and Peter instantly noticed a difference in the way he was being treated. They noticed Peter’s worry and set about reassuring himself and his wife by explaining his condition which was finally revealed as heart valve disease. Peter had been born with a biscuspid aorta that had become blocked and was now failing. Mr Sabetai, Consultant Cardiac Surgeon, was the surgeon in charge of Peter’s case and he made sure he took the time to regularly visit with Peter and his family to carefully explain the disease - from how it may have occurred to what would happen if left untreated to how he and his team would fix the problem.

“Mr Sabetai provided a wealth of information, as well as told us where we could find more,” said Peter, “He answered each and every question without hesitation and gave myself and my family the reassurance that we so desperately needed, I was NOT going to die!”

On 17 May, Peter had his surgery where a new state of the art valve was expertly fitted into his aortic valve by Mr Sabetai and his world class team. While he was in surgery they also provided him with a coronary artery bypass graft to help with another problem and left him with a small scar that Peter is very proud to have as it saved his life.

Following his surgery, life with his new valve has been wonderful. Peter has been given a new chance at life and has no plans to waste it. He is feeling fitter and healthier than he has in years and although he has put on little extra weight since his procedure, he is actually looking forward to the exercise and healthy eating he needs to do to get it off. He has already been climbing the 100 steps at St Mary’s Church Tower in Rye, East Sussex only nine weeks after his surgery and is considering walking up 528 steps to the very top of the dome in St Paul’s Cathedral as his next challenge. He also had the idea of abseiling dressed as Captain Chaos from Cannonball run down the front of St. Thomas’ next year to raise money - if they let him!

Peter couldn’t be happier to get his life back, “Mr Sabetai saved my life, without a doubt and I and my family will be eternally grateful to this highly talented, unassuming gentleman for the rest of our lives. After all, it is not every day my wife can say, ‘Thank you for my little bit of beefcake’.”

We wish you and your family all the best Peter, what an inspiring story!

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