Four weeks ago, Paul took part in a 100-mile cycle challenge, RideLondon. Now, four days after open heart surgery, Paul talks us through his journey.
“I didn’t have any symptoms”, he says.
Due to high cholesterol, Paul is currently undergoing annual health checks. The most recent showed a significantly raised cholesterol level and he was referred to see a cardiologist by his GP (from Bupa).
“As I had a family history of heart conditions, the local cardiologist advised me to have some further checks. They did a CT scan which showed a narrowing of my arteries.
“The cardiologist referred me for an angiogram but said I would likely need bypass surgery,” explains Paul.
Paul was referred to the care of Dr Michael Ozkor at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. Here, he underwent an angiogram to examine his blood vessels.
“Following the angiogram, Dr Ozkor confirmed to me that I needed triple-bypass surgery. He referred me to Mr Kulvinder Lall, Cardiac Surgeon. I saw Mr Lall that afternoon whilst recovering from the angiogram. It happened as fast as that,” says Paul.
Paul was booked into having triple coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery the following Monday.
This is a surgical procedure to treat coronary heart disease by diverting the blood around the narrowed parts of the arteries to improve blood flow and oxygen supply to the heart.
While on his journey to diagnosis, Paul received support from the hospital’s Cardiac Clinical Nurse Specialist, Leo Taccetti.
“I met Paul on the ward before his diagnostic angiogram. We then spoke again to arrange the surgical pre-assessment for his CABG. Despite the bad news, Paul has shown strength and resilience and he approached surgery in the best possible way,” says Leo.
“My father died of a heart attack quite early, he was 65. His sister also had a heart condition so I was worried it may have been hereditary. Of course, I was very keen to act before something bad happened,” explains Paul.
“It was a shock for me, but I think it was more of a shock for everyone else.”
Just a few weeks ago, Paul was due to celebrate a friend’s birthday in Majorca. He was excited to spend time cycling up the mountains as he had done previously. However, with results from the CT scan pending, doctors advised that going abroad was not an option.
“It was scary. I’ve got three kids, two step-children, my wife, my mum. My son is travelling, on the other side of the world, so it was difficult news to give out of the blue and over the phone,” says Paul.
“It was a big shock for everyone. It was a shock for me, but I think it was more of a shock for everyone else. The only way I can rationalise it is that there is no other option. I needed bypass surgery or it was a big issue.”
“Everyone has been great, from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) team through to physio at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital.
“ICU was just fantastic. I was up there for 24 hours and then went to the Higher Dependency Unit (HDU). There was a group of people sat around talking to me, it was so one-on-one. I always felt protected but in a friendly and relaxed environment. It made it an approachable experience,” adds Paul.
Victoria Turnbull, Senior Staff Nurse on ICU says: “I was the ICU nurse in charge post-operatively for Paul. We are both from Essex and shared interesting conversations about beach walks and areas of interest in our local area. He was very friendly, talkative, and proactive in his recovery.”
Paul began physio shortly after his surgery.
“I have been seeing Sarah Tollefson, the physiotherapist, and she has been taking me for walks and explaining what I can and can’t do. I have always been very active and it’s a big thing for me knowing what I am able to do. I want to do enough so that I get better but not doing too much that I overdo it,” explains Paul.
Sarah adds: “I supported Paul in his early transfers and mobility by managing his various lines and attachments whilst on critical care including a pacing box and multiple chest drains. This early mobility prevented Paul from developing post-operative complications and provided reassurance to enable Paul to achieve daily goals and prepare him for returning home.
“Paul had an unexpected diagnosis of heart disease followed by a very short journey through to surgery. Despite the sudden and significant changes in Paul's health status, he remained highly motivated and focussed on his long-term goals of returning to cycling and hiking,” explains Sarah.
While at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, Paul has reflected on the care he has received.
“The level of care has been first class,” says Paul. The quality of the place has been second to none. It’s all the latest kit so you take confidence that everything works. It takes a lot of the stress away.
“I feel like I have been on a very fast, express way to getting this sorted. From a family and personal point of view, it has really taken the anxiety out of this experience.”
Road to recovery
“We’re on Friday and my surgery was only done on Monday. I’ve just been for a walk around the hospital, and I am working on using the bathroom independently,” explains Paul.
Paul will soon be enrolled on the Cardiac Rehabilitation Programme at Nuffield Health at St Bartholomew’s Hospital.
An 8-week programme which supports improving fitness, wellbeing, and quality of life, which is supported by Nuffield Health’s Barbican Fitness and Wellbeing Centre.
Andy Smitherman, Senior Rehabilitation Assistant says: “Being part of our cardiac rehab programme will help Paul gain the fitness, strength, and confidence to return to his normal daily activity and exercise. It will also help improve his knowledge and confidence about making healthy lifestyle changes through education sessions with our connected physiotherapy team, cardiac nurses, dietician, pharmacist, and emotional wellbeing team.”
“I have been discussing the cardiac rehab programme with members of staff. I think this is great and something I will be doing when I am able to,” explains Paul.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back to my cycling level and to be back out in the mountains. Having the freedom to do that again will be my main target. I used to cycle about 80km on a Saturday and I’d like to be back at that level again.”
We send our best wishes to Paul with his recovery.
If you would like any further information about our cardiac rehabilitation programme, click here
Last updated Friday 29 September 2023
First published on Wednesday 26 July 2023