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We Are Teesside
Jeffrey goes under the knife.
My heart bypass operation
Middlesbrough's James Cook Hospital performs 1,800 heart operations every year. Jeffrey Fairlamb from Easington allowed BBC Tees to follow him through his double bypass operation, from start to finish.
Jeffrey is a typical 66 year old man. Moreover, he is a typical man. For years on end, he put up with attacks when his chest tightened and his breathing became difficult and never went to see the doctor.
"To be honest, I only went now, because I've retired and I've got the time." He admits. "It'd be gone for weeks and months and that was all that I got for years, so I never thought it was anything to be concerned about.
"So it was only when they did the angiogram that it came up that I needed the bypass surgery and, well, it was one Hell of a shock. I just wasn't expecting it, because I didn't think it was that serious."
Recently, though, the potential seriousness of his condition has come into cruelly sharp focus for Jeffrey. "A friend of ours collapsed and died a few weeks back and that was it, you know. She died just there and then."
Jeffrey was told he needed a double coronary bypass graft, whereby consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Andrew Goodwin would open up his chest, harvest a vein from his leg and an artery from his chest, divert his blood through a heart/lung machine and stop his heart.
The heart and lung machine.
The harvested blood vessels would then be attached, one end upstream from each blockage, the other downstream, allowing the blood to flow freely into his heart once again.
Despite this, Jeffrey said he was leaving the worrying to his wife. "Whatever's going to happen is going to happen."
Forty eight hours after surgeons opened his chest and stopped his heart, Jeffrey is sitting in a chair in Ward 31 at James Cook Hospital, chatting with the other patients. He proudly declares that he's already been for a walk.
"When I came round in intensive care, I felt fine. I felt as if I could get up and walk away. It was about two o'clock in the morning then, mind. I didn't know what time it was, but I felt great."
It hadn't all been easy. Jeffrey had found himself awake during the night, performing the breathing exercises he ad been given to lift the phlegm off his chest, but he said, "It's all part of the healing process."
The 'Cath Lab'
Just along the corridor from where Jeffrey underwent his surgery is a suite of labs where the team at James Cook have taken part in successful trials, using emergency angioplasty on heart attack victims. Last month, a Department of Health study concluded the trial had been a success.
The hospital performs 370 coronary angioplasty operations a month and is now planning to open a new lab.
The 'cath lab' in action.
The process, which can be conducted while the patient is still conscious, involves feeding a catheter into the patient's wrist and then manouvering it up the arm and into the heart, where the blockage has occurred.
A balloon is used to widen narrowed blood vessels around the heart, which are then held open by a small scaffold.
last updated: 25/11/2008 at 15:17