Blackpool man's journey from Aortic Valve Replacement to European Medalist
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And Jamie Mather, 29, is hoping his story can give hope to others who may have worries about their ability to live a fulfilling and active lifestyle after heart surgery.
He was just 19 when he was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect in 2013, a condition that caused his aortic valve to have two cusps rather than three.
It’s known as a bicuspid aortic valve [BAV]), which is common and affects around 2 per cent of the population.
However, when classified as severe it sometimes needs surgical intervention.
Jamie was determined to get fit after this diagnosis and even ran a marathon in 2015 and later became involved in Brazlian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).
But he had to go into hospital for an operation on December 3 2020, when he had his aortic valve replaced at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Jamie says after the operation he feared he may never be able to lead an active life again.
He said: “I remember being out of breath brushing my teeth and feeling like I could collapse any minute.
“During the rehab phase I overexerted myself causing the wires that were holding my sternum together to come loose and cause sternal nonunion (chronic instability and fractures).
"For nearly two I was unable to do any upper body lifting, never mind martial arts.
"I couldn’t sleep on my side or flat because of the pain so I spent months sleeping virtually upright.
"My mental health deteriorated but fortunately I was already under the supervision of one of the hospital's psychologists, which is normal procedure post-surgery, and they later referred me to Mountcroft Resource Centre in Fleetwood for additional support.
"Without the staff at Blackpool Victoria hospital and support from Mountcroft community mental health team I wouldn’t have gotten through a very difficult time.
“Two years after my operation I was given the all-clear to return, safely, to upper body exercise and BJJ training and exactly 12 months later, on October 26, 2023, after safe rehabilitation, I competed in the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) European Championships (2023).”
Jamie added: “I hope my story can help individuals who may have worries regarding their ability to live a fulfilling and active lifestyle, post heart surgery and those in the local community looking for a positive outlet.”