How a patient’s ear trial led to discovery of life-threatening heart failure

Thomas Gabriel, who signed up for an ear trial only for it to be discovered he had a potentially lif

Thomas Gabriel, who signed up for an ear trial only for it to be discovered he had a potentially life-threatening heart condition. - Credit: Archant

When Thomas Gabriel signed up for a research trial into his ear problem, little did he know it would save him from another potentially life-threatening condition.

Mr Gabriel, 50, of Ludham, had been suffering from the symptoms of Meniere's disease for around two years and put himself forward for a trial at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to help find a more effective treatment, but tests revealed he was at risk of heart failure which could have fatal consequences.

'It's just as well I was booked on the trial otherwise I'd have collapsed at some point and, considering I do a lot of driving for my job, that could have been very nasty,' Mr Gabriel said.

'The clinical research team quite probably saved my life.'

Meniere's Disease is a rare and long-term disorder which can give those who suffer from it vertigo attacks, tinnitus, fluctuating hearing loss, and dizziness accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

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Mr Gabriel signed up to the trial as he knew it is difficult to identify the right treatment for inner-ear disorder.

But on the first day tests revealed his heart rate was abnormally slow at 36 beats per minute.

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Mr Gabriel was referred for an ECG (electrocardiogram) which showed he had a 'right bundle branch block,' meaning the necessary signals were not getting through to his heart.

Within 24 hours Mr Gabriel was given emergency surgery and had a pacemaker fitted to help normalise his heart-rate.

It meant he was unable to take part in the trial but that was a small price to pay for the discovery of his heart condition.

Mr Gabriel said: 'I'm very glad I attempted to get into the trial.

'The team were brilliant - they identified the problem, got me on to an ECG machine, and sorted it very quickly.'

Mr John Phillips, who led the ear trial, said: 'Not only are we grateful to Mr Gabriel for his willingness to get involved in the first place, we're particularly glad that we were able to help stop a potentially life-threatening condition from worsening.

'People who participate in trials such as this often do so to try and help patients in the future, which is exactly why Mr Gabriel originally got involved, and we're extremely grateful to him and those generous individuals like him.'

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