My twin sister and I were born on 4th September 1981, I was born with Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) and had open heart surgery at the age of three to repair a hole in my heart. I am afraid I don’t remember too much about this particular operation but my Mum tells me it was done by Dr McKay at what is now the Alderhey Hospital. Obviously Dr McKay did an outstanding job as I had a very normal childhood, I was very sporty and was always outside playing football and rugby.
I have always been for regular check-ups at Manchester Royal Infirmary, and at the age of 27 the doctors told me I had a slight leak from my Pulmonary Valve which they wanted to keep their eye on. They advised it wasn’t serious at this stage but it was not going to get any better. I continued to play football but I did start to notice a deterioration in my fitness.
Two years later I was informed that I would require open heart surgery to replace my Pulmonary Valve. I remember cheekily asking the surgeon to try and do my surgery just before the World Cup in South Africa so I could spend my recovery time watching football (in between doing my exercise of course!) To this day I am not sure whether he actually took my request seriously but all credit to him I was booked in to have the surgery on 7th June 2010, three days before the start of the World Cup!
Leading up to the operation I was feeling a whole range of emotions. Part of me was feeling really positive about the operation and was looking forward to the benefits of having the surgery, however at the same time I was conscious that this was open heart surgery and there were risks involved.
I arrived at Manchester Royal Infirmary the day before my scheduled heart surgery. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, however I could not have had a warmer welcome from the nurses on reception. Straight away I knew I would be in good hands. As I sat on my hospital bed taking in my new surroundings, I noticed I was certainly the youngest patient in the room. Several patients on the ward were already recovering from their own operations and it was amazing to see them walking up and down the ward so soon afterwards. Some would stop by and have a chat with me and tell me about the procedures they had just had and how well they were being looked after.
I first learned about The Somerville Foundation (GUCH PA) when prior to my operation a cardiac nurse handed me a leaflet advising me of the charity and the fantastic support you offer to people like myself. I signed up to receive the magazine (GUCH News) and have enjoyed reading every issue since. It is great to know that should you need support or have any questions it is only a phone call or an email away.
My heart surgery went really well, the doctors were really happy with the results and I was allowed to go home 4 days after my surgery to begin my rehabilitation. I personally really enjoyed the cardiac rehabilitation, you could feel an improvement every single day. It wasn’t long before I was running on a treadmill. My scar healed really well. Whilst it was red at first it soon faded and now I hardly notice it at all.
It has been over two years since my valve was replaced with a bovine valve. I am feeling really well and I still play football, regularly attend the gym and have recently taken up golf. Shortly after my surgery I met my partner Helen Don-Duncan. It is ironic that she is a former Olympic swimmer having represented Great Britain at Sydney 2000 and no doubt has fitness levels that I could only dream of!
Finally I’d like to say a big thank you to all the Cardiac staff at Manchester Royal Infirmary and well done to everyone involved with The Somerville Foundation, keep up the fantastic work!
Craig Smart, February 2013.
Craig and his team at work raised over £200 for The Somerville Foundation.