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Hospital implants first heart defibrillator

07 November 2012

Health Care

Roy Harrington was completely unaware he had a heart problem – until he had a stroke last year. He had had no symptoms and had no family history.

Roy, 58, made a good recovery from the stroke and it was only in subsequent tests that he discovered he had dilated cardiomyopathy - deterioration of the heart muscle.

The father-of-three of High Road, Benfleet, said: "I did get a bit breathless but just put that down to being a bit out of condition."

Now he has just become the first patient to have a heart defibrillator implanted in his chest at Southend University Hospital.

The Swiss-made titanium device has been inserted beneath the skin near the clavicle, or collar bone, where it is able to detect any life-threatening change to the heart rhythm. If it does, it can then deliver a shock to make the heart revert to a safe and steady pace.

The procedure, which took about an hour, was performed by Dr Sajjad Mazhar with the help of senior physiologists Nikki Baines and Katy Deane.

Amy Greenhalgh of the manufacturers Medtronic said: "Having the implant means that patients are not reliant on being near a telephone or someone trained in first aid if the heart suddenly starts racing. The device will automatically kick in to regulate the heart rhythm."

Roy said: "It is a wonderful piece of kit - just about the size of a small box of matches and weighs about the same as a cup of tea!

"I did not think I needed it but the doctors felt I did so I was guided by the experts. It is going to be a life-saving measure.

"There was no pain with the procedure - I just felt a bit of pressure - and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is told they need it."

Hours after having the device inserted, he was able to go home to his wife, Andrea, and three sons. He was given lots of information regarding the implant and hopes to be back 'in full swing' very soon.

He said: "I went into hospital for the procedure just five days after my assessment and everyone has looked after me very well."

Until now, patients requiring this service have had to go either to a London hospital or to the cardiac care centre at Basildon.

Nikki said: "From a patient's point of view, it is much better to be able to have it done here and not have to travel.

"We expect to carry out 22 procedures in the first year, increasingly steadily after that."


With pic:Roy Harrington with consultant cardiologist Dr Sajjad Mazhar and (l to r) cardiac day stay deputy manager Katie Schirn, senior chief physiologist Katy Deane and principal physiologist Nikki Baines.