Changing lives a year on

MARK NICHOLLS The drive to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to increase the number of revolutionary heart procedures performed at Norfolk's biggest hospital has stepped up a gear after it emerged that more than 370 patients had undergone the treatment in its first year.

MARK NICHOLLS

The drive to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to increase the number of revolutionary heart procedures performed at Norfolk's biggest hospital has stepped up a gear after it emerged that more than 370 patients had undergone the treatment in its first year.

It is a year ago today that the first life-changing angioplasty procedure to unblock clogged arteries in a patient's heart was performed at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

But if an extra £400,000 can be raised to open a second catheter laboratory, that number of angioplasty treatments could more than double, meaning only a handful of patients having to make the 80-mile journey to Papworth Hospital, near Cambridge, for the procedure.

At present, about half of Norfolk patients with blocked arteries have to make the journey but the second lab would enable 95pc of patients to be treated closer to home.

It will cost £2.7m, with £1.7m already pledged by the N&N. But the remaining £1m will have to come from public donation and so far £600,000 has been handed over to the Ballons4Hearts appeal.

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Consultant cardiologist Dr Liam Hughes said the second cath lab could be operating by as early as mid-November, but that was still dependent on the remaining cash being raised.

Donations have come from a range of sources, including grateful patients, charitable trusts and clubs and organisations.

Dr Hughes is also planning to raise money by rowing with a team of five across the North Sea from the Hoek of Holland to Southwold at the start of July.

At present, the N&N performs the diagnostic angiogram which identifies the blockage and often patients have to wait several weeks for the angioplasty to clear it, either at the N&N or Papworth. But with the second laboratory, the treatment procedure could more often follow straight after diagnosis.

Dr Hughes said: “It is not a painful procedure but we do have a highly experienced and capable team to do it that stands with the best in the country. We have developed an efficient and committed team.

“But to extend the service we do need to reach that £1m target. We can whinge and get political about who should pay but that will not help the patients.

“The trust, under a difficult financial position, is providing £1.7m and I have no doubt that if it had not been so financially constrained, it would have done more than that.”

Dr Hughes will be joined in the 48-hour row by his wife Claire, Norfolk police officer Jim Starling, local businessman Gary Steward, and Vicky Burroughs.

They are continuing training and improving their general fitness for the 140-mile crossing and are appealing for more sponsorship, particularly from the business community. They will be aided by a support vessel organised by transatlantic rower Tiny Little, from the Alexander Tavern in Norwich, and Richard Williams.

Anyone who wants to donate, or companies that wish to sponsor the attempt or even name the boat, can visit www.balloon4hearts.co.uk. Cheques for the appeal should be made payable to Norfolk Heart Trust and sent to 215 Unthank Road, Norwich NR2 2PH, or call Claire Hughes on 01953 603777.