Heart patient Susan Payne's chance to say thank you

Published
image captionEmotions ran high as Susan Payne met with the daughter of the doctor who saved her life, Margaret Hayley

A woman whose life was saved by pioneering surgery nearly 60 years ago has finally been able to say thank you.

Susan Payne met the daughter of the doctor who repaired a hole in her heart in May 1960.

She believes she was the first person to successfully undergo the procedure in Wales.

Now 68, the patient from Powys appealed for help to trace the surgeon - her only clue was a picture with his name above her hospital bed.

Her call for help was answered by Margaret Hayley - the daughter of the late surgeon.

Mrs Payne only knew that the man who had saved her was called Mr DME Thomas, and had operated on her at Sully Hospital in the Vale of Glamorgan.

He developed a technique using an ice-bath to slow the heart, which enabled him to operate.

But even then, Mrs Payne's parents were warned that surviving the ordeal was 50-50.

image copyrightMargaret Hayley
image captionDillwyn Malcolm Ewart Thomas was born in Nantymoel in 1907 and went to Monmouth School

"I had the operation at the same time as a boy on my ward. He didn't survive it - and I did. So it was really 50-50," Mrs Payne, from Newbridge on Wye, said on BBC Radio Wales on Friday, as she chatted on the telephone with the surgeon's daughter before later meeting her for the first time.

"The big risk was brain damage, because they had to slow your metabolism down so much, your blood wasn't flowing properly.

"I'm incredibly lucky that wonderful surgeon was able to carry out that operation on me - and successfully."

media captionSusan Payne meets the daughter of the surgeon she credits with saving her life in 1960

Dillwyn Malcolm Ewart Thomas was born in Nantymoel in 1907 and went to Monmouth School, later qualifying at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School in London in 1933.

He returned to work in Wales, including in Newport and Cardiff, and was appointed the consultant thoracic surgeon to the United Cardiff Hospitals after the war in 1948.

Mr Thomas retired in 1972 and died in 1985.

His daughter said he would have been "absolutely amazed" that Mrs Payne was trying to track him down almost 60 years later.

image copyrightSusan Payne
image captionMrs Payne's parents took photos of her stay in hospital, fearing the worst, she said

"He was really quite a private man and so dedicated to his work - he was jolly tired and didn't have much of a social life," recalled Mrs Hayley.

She said the opportunity to meet Mrs Payne and talk about her late father and his work was "actually very good".

"There are people around still alive whom he has helped look after," she added.

The surgeon's daughter said she had watched her father use his ice-bath technique on patients, when she observed some of his operations when she was in her late teens.

media captionSusan Payne's parents had her christened after being told she only had a 50/50 chance of surviving

She described the old hospital settings as "archaic".

"You couldn't believe it looking at an operating theatre today and an operating theatre then - there's absolutely no comparison," she said.

His patient, Mrs Payne added: "Here I am at 68 with two children and four grandchildren, and those generations would never have been if it wasn't for that wonderful man."

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