Cardiac patient travels 250 miles from London to Blackpool for delicate heart surgery

A London man made a 250-mile journey to Blackpool to go under the knife in a pioneering heart operation.
Przemyslaw SekulaPrzemyslaw Sekula
Przemyslaw Sekula

Przemyslaw Sekula, 43, was diagnosed with endocarditis - inflammation of the lining of the heart - in 2013.

He was later 'filled with fear' after his doctors told him he needed open heart surgery to save his life. But after researching the treatment for his condition, he discovered a specialist at the Lancashire Cardiac Centre at Blackpool Victoria Hospital was able to carry out a heart valve repair that was far less invasive.

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Surgeon Joseph Zacharias carried out the delicate procedure using an endoscope, a tiny camera on the end of a long, thin tube, which was inserted into Przemyslaw's body through a keyhole incision.

Przemyslaw, who is of Polish origin but has lived in the capital for 16 years, said: “I was diagnosed with endocarditis in 2013 and the doctors weren’t sure if they would need to operate. But then early last year it was discovered that I had mitral valve regurgitation, which is where the blood flows back into the heart which can be dangerous as it can cause the heart to get bigger and cause heart failure.

“I was sent to Bart’s Hospital in London where they told me they needed to do open heart surgery, which would have involved spreading my breast bone. I was shocked by this as I had done some research that made me worry about this kind of procedure, particularly the recovery time after the operation.

“I found out a repair could be done with minimal incision using an endoscope and decided that was what I wanted, but they didn’t do it at Bart’s.”

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"(Mr Zacharias) was recommended to me by a Polish heart surgeon in Warsaw, so I requested to be sent to Blackpool and thankfully, because of the patient choice that exists within the NHS, they agreed to help me.”

Przemyslaw's surgery was scheduled for April this year, but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It finally took place in August and now he is well on the road to recovery.

He said: “I definitely think I made the right decision as I feel much fitter. I have started to jog. I have noticed a huge difference in my breathing as I was often gasping for breath because of the lack of oxygen.

“It was a difficult experience but at the same time quite uplifting. I feel very lucky and I have learned a lot about the need to have patience.

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“I was amazed by all the staff, by Mr Zacharias and his secretary Adrienne Robinson. They helped me with everything, including the logistics of travelling up from London.

“I was amazed by the care I got in the hospital and how friendly everyone was. It was definitely a different experience to being treated in London where everyone is so busy. The people are very different up here.”

Mr Zacharias said: “It was flattering to receive this referral from my surgical colleagues both in Warsaw and London. Over the past 10 years, we in Blackpool have developed an international reputation for being leaders in endoscopic cardiac surgery and I was very pleased that we as a team could offer this to Mr Sekula.

“I am particularly happy to hear that he felt the journey up north was worth it. It also shows how, despite the pandemic, thanks to the dedication of the staff and management, we are able to offer highly specialised procedures safely to patients of all age groups.”

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