Heartfelt thanks

Paul Conway is one of the first people in the country to have a new kind of pacemaker fitted at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.  He is pictured with Dr Grahame Goode.
Paul Conway is one of the first people in the country to have a new kind of pacemaker fitted at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. He is pictured with Dr Grahame Goode.
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FOR a man about to go under the knife, Paul Conway is remarkably cool.

The 43-year-old doesn’t even flinch when Dr Grahame Goode, a consultant cardiologist at Blackpool’s Victoria hospital, explains the procedure he is about to perform is pretty much a world first.

In other words, Paul is a bit of a guinea pig.

Instead of running a mile, he shrugs, says “okey, dokey” in a remarkably matter-of-fact way – and with that he is whisked away for surgery.

He’s a braver man than I am.

Then again, Paul has full confidence in the medics at the Vic, who saved his life three months ago when he had a heart attack.

He said: “I was at my mum’s house when I felt chest pain and collapsed. An ambulance was called and I was resuscitated – I owe my life to those paramedics.”

Paul, of Freckleton Street, central Blackpool, underwent an angioplasty performed at the Vic’s Lancashire Cardiac Centre by Dr Goode.

He spent almost a month in hospital, and was back again this week to be fitted with a hi-tech pacemaker device, which is the first of its kind.

The Viva XT CRT works by sending tiny electrical pulses to the lower chambers of the heart, to help it beat in a more efficient way.

What’s new is that it continuously listens to what the heart is doing, and adjusts accordingly – unlike previous pacemakers, when a patient would have to return to hospital to have the device readjusted.

The Gazette was invited to the Vic to watch Mr Conway become one of the first patients on the planet to have the new device fitted.

The procedure lasted just over an hour, and was fascinating to watch.

The most astonishing thing was Paul was awake during the operation. He had a local anaesthetic, but was conscious and able to talk.

Which was a bit odd, considering that as he was nattering away, Dr Goode and his colleague Matthew Luckie (Goode and Luckie... better than having surgeons called Rubbish and Jinxed), made an incision in his chest above the heart area.

With radiographer Iain Binmore providing a live X-ray feed, Dr Luckie slid three leads into the incision and attached them to the heart muscle. The other end of the leads, dangling out of Paul’s body, were then attached to the new device, which looked a bit like a flat silver matchbox. The device was pushed into the body, Paul’s wound was sewn up... and that was pretty much that.

The skill and calmness of the Blackpool surgeons is incredible to watch. And when one thinks about the device which has been placed in Paul’s body and how it will help keep him alive, it is quite mind-boggling.

It is amazing what they can do these days, and we are lucky to have the Lancashire Cardiac Centre based at the Vic and right on our doorstep.

Dr Goode, a cardiologist at the hospital for 15 years, said: “The whole way of treating patients has come on leaps and bounds in recent years.

“Paul suffered a cardiac arrest three months ago, like the footballer Fabrice Muamba. We treated him for that at the time and this device will be a huge help to patients like Paul.”

Paul, meanwhile, had fully recovered just a couple of hours after his op and was hugely grateful for the treatment.

He said: “I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in my treatment. It has been exceptional, and I owe my life to them.

“I am hopeful I will be able to lead a full life and it’s remarkable how, just a couple of hours after the procedure, I feel fine, and my heart seems to be working well. I feel very confident after this device has been fitted.”

Paul has to avoid lifting anything heavy for the next seven days. He will have a check up in a month, then further check-ups every three months.

His new CRT pacemaker should last five to seven years before it needs replacing.

A spokesman for Medtronic, the medical technology company that designed and made the device, said: “These are the first implants of their kind and Mr Conway was one of the first patients in the world to have the benefit of this new advance.”

He won’t be the last. The people of Blackpool are in safe hands.