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Back To The Theatre

by Matthew Williamson

I was born with tricuspid atresia and pulmonary stenosis; in 1986 my parents were told that there was very little that could be done to help me. Magdi Jacoub was in the news and my mother contacted Harefield hospital and asked for a second opinion. Mr Jacoub agreed to operate and at the age of four I had a modified fontans operation at Harefield hospital performed by Mr Jacoub. This enabled me to live a normal active life and do all the sports that I wanted to do.

When I left school I decided to study mechanical engineering, went to college, qualified and became a project engineer which I enjoyed as I was working with some great people from all over the world and this also enabled me to travel at times.

Then when I was 20 I started having problems and kept going into super ventricular tachycardia (S.V.T). So I went back to Harefield to find out what was going wrong. Upon investigation they found that my right atrium became very enlarged due to it being used as a pumping chamber as well as an in flow chamber and this is what was causing the S.V.T. I was put on to amiodarone to stop the S.V.T and an operation was planned for the future when the cardiologist thought the time was right to have it done or when the amiodarone side affects start showing. This was the time I found out about GUCH PA (former name of The Somerville Foundation) from a cardiologist in Leeds General Infirmary. Harefield put me in touch with the cardiologist to manage my medication and wellbeing, as Leeds is closer to where I was living.

Having all this treatment for my heart I started reading a lot into the anatomy of my heart and spent time researching into the fontans operation. I was getting more interested in reading into medicine and surgery at work and at home so I decided I wanted a career change so I left engineering to study 'access to medicine'. This was made very hard as part way through the course I needed the total cava pulmonary connection (TCPC) extra cardiac operation because of amiodarone toxicity. The TCPC extra cardiac is done by bypassing the right side of the heart and directing blood straight to the lungs using a goretex tube. This was performed by Marcus Haw at Southampton in November 2003.

My operation was eventually a success. After having some initial complications, I left hospital six weeks later and returned home to continue my course. I had a lot a work to catch up on and would not have done it with out the help from my fellow college students. Once I finished the course I went into doing work experience in hospital observing in cardiac theatres, catheter labs and cardiac clinics. A lot of my placements were set up by my cardiologist in Leeds and my cardiologist in Grimsby who I ended up working with quite often.

I can always remember the first time I went in to theatre it seemed so surreal standing at the head of the table looking at someone's heart beating inside them and then the heart stopping when going on to bypass.

I am now studying to become an operating department practitioner. I still have to study many aspects of surgery before I can fully specialize. I find paediatric cardiothoracic surgery is really interesting and challenging and feel that this is where my future lies.

As I am a congenital heart patient myself and a member of GUCH PA (former name of The Somerville Foundation), I feel that I have a real empathy with people. Patients and their relatives have said that having somebody to relate to, that could be there to assist with their surgery and who understands what they going through, can be a great comfort.

My biggest inspiration to do all of this and keep going is Sir Magdi Jacoub who has to be the world's greatest heart surgeon. The best thing about the career I am going for has to be helping to prolong someone's life.

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