Thursday, 2 April 2015

Margaret Smith- miracle surgery-

Margaret Smith, a former child heart patient, spoke to me by phone from her home in Jersey. She was admitted to the hospital as a four-year-old.

 “I was suffering from Ebsteins Syndrome a congenital heart defect.
“ It is now thought it could have been linked to my mother, who suffered from post natal depression, been given lithium during her pregnancy.”

“I became a patient in Sully Hospital in 1956 and attended out patients up until 1975.”

Born in Pontypridd, her parents had a long journey from the family home to visit her, which involved taking two buses, and her father had to take a day off work.

One day on visiting they got told they could take Margaret home.
 “I remember running up to them in just my knickers and vest because I had no clothes. These were all taken off you and sent back home when you were admitted.”

“So they wrapped me up in a blanket and I went home  - on two buses! It was either that or my parents having to make another long journey to get me. We had no telephone in those days.

Her memories of Sully are happy.
“I was only there for a couple of weeks but I remember it as a cheerful, sunny place where we could go out and play in the garden.”

The test of whether she was fit enough to go home after her operation was to run up 60 stairs.
“ There was no treadmill in those days,” says Margaret.

She knew Sully as a heart hospital and did not know until I told her that it was also a TB hospital.
(I recall how heart and TB patients were strictly segregated and we were never allowed near each other.)

After her marriage she asked the doctors if she could have a family.
While Dr Davies in Sully said yes the doctor she consulted near her home on the south coast advised against it and sent a letter to Dr Davies explaining why. Margaret still has copies of those letters.

Throughout her life Margaret has had to attend regular check up for her heart and she enjoyed a normal life until nearly ten years ago when her health deteriorated and she ended up in a wheelchair.

But a pioneering breakthrough came in 2009 when Margaret was approached by Victor Tsang, a world class cardiac surgeon undertaking risky repair of neonatal heart problems at Great Ormond Street hospital, London if she would be prepared, as the first adult in the UK, to undergo a groundbreaking operation.

“ Well, I felt I had nothing to loose,” she said.” It turned out to be a miracle. Within weeks I was walking again.”

Today she enjoys good health and loves taking long walks on the beach in Jersey with her husband of forty years.

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