Gala ball gets heart unit appeal started

Hundreds of people turned out for the launch event of a new charity appeal which will help equip a new operating theatre at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and potentially save thousands of lives.

Hundreds of people turned out for the launch event of a new charity appeal which will help equip a new operating theatre at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and potentially save thousands of lives.

Up to £15,000 was expected to be raised by the Balloons4hearts event at Carrow Road on Friday, with 280 people attending the glamorous £75 a head ball.

It hoped the appeal will eventually raise £1m - almost half of which has already been raised - to allow groundbreaking angioplasty heart surgery to be fully implemented in the county.

At present a limited angioplasty service means all but a handful of patients must travel 75-miles to Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire.

Co-organiser, cardiologist Liam Hughes, said: “We expect to raise a significant amount through ticket sales and the charity auction. But the event is also about getting the word out there and raising the appeal's profile.

“The amount of support shown so far has been fantastic. From my point view it is also nice to see some happy customers coming along to show their gratitude.

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“The fact is for every one person at this ball who knows they have a heart problem there will be another one who isn't aware of it. That is why this appeal is so important.”

Anglia Television presenter Helen McDermott was among the guests and compered the auction later in the evening. Gordon and Ruth Patterson also attended the event. Two years ago Mr Patterson collapsed during a business trip to Norwich after suffering a cardiac arrest. Thanks to the N&N he has now made a 100pc recovery.

“Tonight I am here with Dr Hughes who operated on me, Roy Seaman who I was doing business with on my visit and the ambulance driver who helped me,” said Mr Patterson.

“I can't express how grateful I am. They really did save my life.”

Dr Hughes is planning a sponsored row from Holland to Southwold next June to boost funds.

Richard Collier, chairman of the appeal, said the biggest donation so far had come through the Geoffrey Watling Trust and amounted to £200,000.

An anonymous donor had given a further £100,000 and a grateful patient had given £25,000. The Norfolk Heart Trust has also donated £25,000, with other smaller contributions coming in. Further organisations and individuals are being approached.

David Lundean, clerk to the trustees of the Geoffrey Watling Charity, said the appeal caught the imagination of the charity, particularly as Mr Watling had a pacemaker fitted.

It is hoped the £1m target will be reached by Christmas. Any additional funds will further boost cardiac services and mean other treatments could be put in place sooner than planned.