The gift of an active life

Since its formation in 2013, Heart Valve Voice has evolved into a patient-led initiative with an action group and team of ambassadors throughout the UK, so the charity reflects the genuine concerns and opinions of patients.

Heart valve disease is a condition caused by wear, disease or damage to one or more of the heart’s valves, affecting the flow of blood, which can cause symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, dizziness and fainting. The chances of developing heart valve disease increase with age and approximately one million people over 65 across the UK are affected by the disease, with this figure expected to rise to 19 million by 2050.

Wil Woan, chief executive, says: “Studies like the OxVALVE Population Cohort Study, published in the European Heart Journal in June 2016, tell us that the number of heart valve disease patients is going to double by 2046 and we are likely to see a fourfold increase in less invasive procedures such as transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI). Yet awareness of the disease remains stubbornly low. TAVI is a less invasive treatment which allows the replacement aortic valve to be inserted via a catheter usually through a small incision in the groin.”

The charity works on behalf of patients to improve diagnosis, treatment and management of the disease. It supports a growing network of patients who now have a good quality of life after treatment. One such patient is Bill Hanson. Bill has been an avid cyclist for many years, but at the age of 82 he found himself slowing down significantly from his usual 150 miles a week. He was beginning to experience shortness of breath, tiredness and dizziness, which was affecting his life.

In December 2015 an annual test for his pacemaker showed that his aortic valve had become hardened quite quickly. He was informed that he would need to have his valve replaced, which would require open heart surgery. However, his cardiologist suggested to have him placed in the UK TAVI trial being run at Leicester University.

The trial is a multi-centre, randomised controlled trial that compares the clinical and cost effectiveness of TAVI with conventional surgical valve replacement. After explaining that there was a 50-50 chance that he would receive a TAVI procedure, Bill decided to go for it and was lucky enough to be randomly chosen.

On March 30, 2016 Bill had his TAVI procedure at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital. The procedure went well, and was quick and painless. Bill went in for his treatment at 11am and was in recovery by 12.30pm. Dr Joe Mills, his physician, checked in on Bill and found he was feeling quite well. So well, in fact, that Dr Mills suggested, jokingly, that Bill might want to go home the same day. Bill was safely discharged the next day saying that he felt “as right as rain”.

His recovery went well and within a couple of days of being home, he was back to driving his car. Within a fortnight, he was back on his bike. He attended rehabilitation sessions at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s Rehabilitation Care Services and was back to his normal, active self within 12 weeks.

They really helped to give me my life back

Now Bill is as active as ever, keeping up with his cycling and is back to his impressive 150 miles a week. “It has been a real game-changer for me, having this treatment. I just thought that at 82, I would have to slow down and stop doing some of things I loved, but that is no longer the case,” says Bill. “I’m fitter than I have been in a long time and I have lots of energy. I can’t thank the doctors at LHCH and Chester Hospital enough, they really helped to give me my life back.”

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