“WE’VE got our lives back.” That was the message from Fylde coast pensioners after The Gazette took on the plight of five patients when health chiefs decided not to fund a revolutionary treatment.
Their lives were left hanging in the balance after they were turned down for specialist heart operations in Blackpool.
But thanks to pressure from their families, The Gazette, local MPs and heart clinicians, health chiefs made a U-turn on their decision and commissioned the procedure – and all five patients have now undergone the life-saving treatment.
There was joy for Clarice Richardson, 83, from Norbreck, when she returned home after the TAVI procedure, a £25,000 operation to correct narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve.
She said: “I feel fine and it’s all been worth it.”
Prior to the treatment she was breathless and struggled to walk.
Originally she had been turned down for a TAVI, (transcatheter aortic valve implantation) by the North West Specialised Commissioning Group (NWSCG).
Mrs Richardson said: “It’s changed my life. I knew it was a risk but I thought I had to go for it. I feel as if I can go out again now. I’ve been able to make a dinner and do some ironing for the first time.
“I wanted to be able to dance just once more and I think I might be able to manage a little Waltz if we go to a Christmas party.
“I’m also hoping to travel to see my three great-grandchildren.
“I was in hospital for three weeks and came out on Thursday. I can walk without a stick now.
“I can’t speak too highly of the staff. They’re excellent and I’d thank The Gazette for getting involved.”
Until March, the procedure was not routinely funded by the NWSCG as it was considered a relatively new operation so patients had to apply separately to their local primary care trusts to be accepted, with many refused funding.
And Irene Bailey, a grandmother-of-four, is celebrating after also successfully coming through the procedure.
Mrs Bailey, 89, from Marton, said: “I feel 100 per cent better.
“It was very difficult to breath and I couldn’t do anything. But now I’ve got my life back – I’d like to thank everyone who helped. I was in hospital for a week and then I went to the Bispham rehabilitation centre.
“Then, after a week and a half, I was allowed home.
“I feel wonderful. I’ve been on holiday to France and loved it.”
Kieron Clegg, her son-in-law from Hertfordshire, added: “It’s worked very well, it’s amazing. It was all worthwhile. I’m so grateful to The Gazette.”
Former nurse Clarice Davies, 89, from Bispham, had the procedure during the first week of September.
The grandmother-of-six, of Haddon Road, who worked as a nurse from when she was 17 until she retired aged 58, told her family she was looking forward to getting out walking again.
And Fleetwood war veteran Hubert Crossley, 91, of Princes Way, and John Luczynski, 84, from South Shore, were also granted TAVI. All three are still recovering in hospital.
While patients on the Fylde coast have successfully had TAVI, for some people in other parts of the country, it is still out of reach.
John MacGill, from the UK TAVI Forum which brought together cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, patient groups and patient representatives to lobby for the procedure, said: “It’s fantastic for the North West. It’s been down to the persistence of clinicians who never lost sight of what their patients needed, and positive action from the media and MPs.
“When the North West decided to do it, they went for it.
“But it’s still very difficult to get in some areas. This gives people their lives back.”