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Bangor man Harold Chivers given new lease of life with artificial heart

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 31/07/2015

Harold Chivers with his wife Helen
Harold Chivers with his wife Helen
Doctors examine an X-ray of the MVAD heart pump after it had been place inside Harold’s chest
How the heart device works

A Northern Ireland man is the first in the world to have an artificial heart pump the size of a golf ball implanted in an operation that could transform the lives of thousands of patients.

Harold Chivers from Bangor, Co Down, who was described as a "dying man", became the first person to have a Miniaturised Ventricular Assist Device (MVAD) heart pump fitted.

The 63-year-old retired father-of-three had the device fitted two weeks ago.

After suffering a heart attack in August, Harold's health was failing and was waiting for a transplant when the possibility of having the new surgery arose.

Mr Chivers travelled to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, England to have the operation which was carried out by expert Professor Stephan Schueler. The procedure has been regarded a success with the married former general manager said to be making good progress.

Mr Chivers who could be allowed home next week said: "I feel great, it has really improved my breathing and the operation has gone really well.

"I was quite happy to volunteer here because I have 100% confidence in the fantastic hospital.

"I am getting a lot better, I'm eating a lot better, I'm getting around and working on my physio. There's a long way to go but I'm going to do it."

The Freeman's Ventricular Assist Device Co-ordinator Neil Wrightson believes the new pump's smaller size made the operation a huge step forward.

Its availability came "in the nick of time" for Mr Chivers who was slumped in his chair and looked "appalling" when they first met in a Belfast hospital,

"He is not a dying man any more," Mr Wrightson said.

His consultant cardiac surgeon said the £80,000 device, smaller than predecessors and with sophisticated controls and settings that allow it to adapt to the patient's lifestyle, sits on the tip of the heart and helps it to pump blood.

Professor Schueler said there were hundreds of thousands of people with advanced heart disease, and in the past treatment was limited to an "elite" few who could receive a transplant.

He said: "They have now the choice to get these revolutionary devices. It is the fourth generation and they are tiny."

Weighing 78g and being 22cc big, the MVAD is about the size of a golf ball - around half as large as previous devices.

It is powered by a battery pack from a wire which passes out of the patient's abdomen. The pack can be carried in a bag or around the waist.

Prof Schueler said: "Our patient is doing very well today. We will send him home next week. He is in the process of being taught how to use it, keep it clean and how to change the batteries.

"There are lots of safety features, it is like taking your driver's licence."

He said because of its small size it could be suitable for children with heart disease.

The device will now go through a lengthy trial process, with centres around the world fitting MVADs in dozens of patients.

Belfast Telegraph

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