Cycling enthusiast Roy shares gratitude to Nuffield Health following open-heart surgery

Later this year, Roy will celebrate his 80th birthday. He is grateful for the life he has lived and his good health. It came as a shock to Roy when minor symptoms resulted in a diagnosis that he would need to undergo open-heart surgery to correct an aortic aneurysm just above his heart.


“I am going to be 80 later this year. I’ve been very fortunate to have been reasonably fit my whole life. My wife and I are keen regular walkers, and although our cycling holidays with our daughters are some ways in the past now, I still use my bike as a fair-weather cyclist when I can.”

Last year while on holiday in France, Roy noticed he had an occasional irregular heartbeat.

“It was beating in twos and threes at times. Other than that, I was completely symptomless. But having scraped my leg in a minor fall I needed help from the GP surgery to bandage it and mentioned the irregular heartbeat to the Physician Assistant.”

She immediately arranged for an electrocardiogram (ECG), a simple test to record the electrical activity of the heart to assess the rate and rhythm. An abnormality was detected which required further exploration.

“I am very lucky to have private medical insurance and was able to be seen by a cardiologist soon after the ECG.”

“Even at that stage, I was without symptoms. Exactly 4 weeks before the operation I was walking up steep hills in Derbyshire with our grandchildren, with no adverse reactions at all.”


Under the care of Consultant Cardiac Surgeon Mr John Yap, Roy was advised he would undergo an ascending aortic aneurysm repair, an open-heart procedure to correct the aneurysm.

“The diagnosis process proceeded with increasing urgency which suggested a serious conclusion. Mr Yap told me after the surgery that the blood vessel had been in a poor state. At a consultation shortly before the surgery, in answer to our questions he had discussed with us in some detail what might be required.

“The urgent need for such a procedure was a shock to me and my family, but the fact that we were able to follow it up quickly, the opportunity to discuss it with those who could treat me, and their evident expertise and confidence were enormously reassuring.”  

Thanks to the team at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Roy was left feeling prepared for his surgery.


In November last year, Roy underwent his surgery at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. He was admitted to our intensive care unit following surgery so that his recovery and progress could be closely monitored.

Here at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, our Critical Care Unit, staffed by specialists in cardiac intensive care medicine, allows us to support high risk patients as well as carry out complex heart surgery.

“Immediately after the operation, I was not aware of how long I had been under anaesthetic. I was probably sleeping about 14 hours a day, with close attention from the nursing staff and others who were always immediately available.”

Roy was visited post-surgery by Mr Yap, who reassured him that the surgery had gone well.

“I was amazed how quickly after the operation the emphasis moved to helping me to make an active recovery. 

On day two, I was helped and shown how to move from the bed to sit in a chair; and within a day or two to stand on my own. This certainly made me realise how weak I felt. Nevertheless, a day or two after that, accompanied initially by a physiotherapist, I was encouraged to take brief walks in the corridor and, in preparation for going home, to start to practise using stairs.”

“I was well aware that it was a major operation, but the full explanation of everything that was being done for me, and the readiness of everybody to answer my questions was immensely reassuring. So was their explanation of the progress they could expect me to make, and of course the contribution I would have to make to assist my recovery.”

“All those I met, from the nurses I saw every day and night to the most senior doctors, were supportive, encouraging people with a confident pride in their expertise. They were a cheerful bunch who gave every impression of enjoying the jobs they were doing. That applied equally to the non-medical staff, who were enthusiastic and helpful members of the team.”


“I had been provided with introductory material about what to expect before and after the operation. So, I understood post operative recovery would not be in a straight line: there would be good days and bad days, but I had to accept that it would do me no good to push too hard. It was equally clear that with the support of the staff, during and beyond my stay in the hospital, the best possible recovery in my case depended significantly on me.

The physiotherapists who saw me after the operation showed me simple exercises that I could begin immediately and continue at home. I continued them every day on going home and was able soon afterwards to start very short walks in the open air, with a small increase in distance every few days as increases in energy levels became apparent,

Although there is continuing physiotherapy and exercise support available at Barts, I would not have wanted to travel into London, and there were no equivalent facilities available to me near home. However, Helen at the Physiotherapy Department at Barts was very helpful in directing me towards online YouTube exercises provided by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) for the benefit of those recovering from cardiac surgery.”

Helen Alexander, Physiotherapy Manager at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital explains, “Roy lives some distance from our hospital so was unable to attend our cardiac rehabilitation programme. We did however feel he would benefit from a structured graduated approach to regaining his physical fitness.

“The BHF videos include warm-up and cool-down sections to enable participants to safely prepare for and recover from the main conditioning part of the exercise sessions. As there are different levels, participants can find the level that suits their current fitness and progress to higher levels as their fitness improves. It is great to hear Roy has regained fitness and confidence and is back to doing what is important to him.”

On Helen’s advice, Roy has been building up his exercises at home via the virtual physio classes provided by the British Heart Foundation.

“I started them about three weeks after I left the hospital, on alternate days with one walk every day. 

A week or two later I often added a second walk on the non-YouTube days. My wife and I quickly found that cardiac rehab is almost a full-time job. But for both of us, our daily walks and the video exercises with their choices gradually to increase their vigour provided encouraging monitors of improvement.”

Four weeks after the operation, Roy was back to see Mr Yap who was glad to see that Roy’s daily walks with his wife had extended to a distance of two miles.

“You can feel you're making progress and that's extremely important for morale. No doubt the rate of progress, and the recommended exercise regime, will differ from patient to patient. 

“All the material available to me from Nuffield Health and the British Heart Foundation was clearly adaptable in that way. It was cleverly geared to encouraging each patient to find his or her own way back along the long and sometimes winding path from the inevitable after-effects of the operation to their attainable level of health.”

We are very pleased to share that following Roy’s successful recovery, he has now been discharged from the care of Mr Yap.

“I am so grateful for how it all went and count myself fortunate to have had such excellent treatment and skills applied to me. I have been signed off by John Yap, who told me to get on with normal life - and encouraged me to get back on my bike quite soon when the weather was warmer!”

Last updated Tuesday 2 April 2024

First published on Tuesday 2 April 2024