Gardeners' Corner host David Maxwell on battling back from heart scare
BBC presenter David Maxwell has spoken about how he has got his life back following a heart scare that left him fearing he could die.
Appearing on Tuesday's Nolan Show, presenter David Maxwell was talking about the health scare in 2014 - which happened just as his career was blossoming within the BBC, he and wife had bought a house and their first child was on the way.
David began to suspect something was wrong when he found himself totally without energy when returning home to Belfast after covering the north east for the BBC.
"I was at my sister’s one day and she had a number of young children," he said.
"I put them in a wheelbarrow for a bit of fun and ran around the garden with them a couple of times. You know yourself, that should not floor you. And it absolutely did."
After attending the doctor and being told he had a murmur on his heart he was sent for an ECG test, which is used to monitor the electrical activity of the heart and see if it is functioning normally.
The news something was wrong was broken to David by the medical stenographer present.
"He said to me, almost straight away, he said, I’ll never forget his words: ‘you’ve got big problems mate’."
"And I said: ‘What do you mean.’
"And he said: ‘Well I can see that you have a faulty heart valve. Which is a unicuspid heart valve it is called. It just has one little cusp when it should have three. Born that way but never knew it. And you also have an ascending aortic aneurysm.
"He said the word aneurysm, and I had only ever heard the word aneurysm in the context of people dying. And I knew it was serious, I did not know a lot about aneurysms then. But basically then I was immediately admitted to hospital."
David recalled how he was admitted to hospital on the eve of the Queen's visit to Northern Ireland in June 2014, with her first stop being the Crumlin Road Gaol the day after.
He had been due to report on the Monarch's visit to Coleraine and stops along the north coast, but instead watched the crowds gathering outside Crumlin Road Gaol from his bed in the Mater Hospital.
Asked by host Vinny Hurrell if he thought he could die, he answered: "Yes, I did."
"We had also just bought a house two months before the diagnosis. The baby came in July after the diagnosis. And then the operation was in the autumn, later September/ October," he said.
"So it was a very busy year. We didn’t really talk about death. I knew that my will had been made because we took that out when the house was bought. We never talked about it. Because we didn’t want to think about that as a prospect.
"I suppose I am someone who has a faith Vinny, and I suppose I prayed a lot in those months. And I know a lot of people did the same for me and that was a great comfort."
The major surgery required David to have his chest cut open, his lungs deflated and his heart switched off as he was hooked up to a bypass machine.
He has since made a full recovery, although his heart will be monitored and he will be on blood-thinning medication for the rest of his life.
In recent times he has also branched into nature programmes, making Wild North for Radio Ulster where he examines Northern Ireland's remarkable animals and people who devote their lives to preserving them.
Gardeners' Corner is broadcast at 9am on Saturday mornings.
Belfast Telegraph Digital