Gil Easton: Norfolk hole-in-the-heart man amazed doctors

One of the first hole-in-the-heart operations at the West Norwich Hospital was carried out on adult patient, Gil Easton, who has died peacefully, aged 79, at Wisbech Hospital.

When the six-hour operation was carried out more than 40 years ago, doctors were amazed that the 36-year-old Norfolk man had lived a normal life with a hole in the heart. The surgeon said he had never known of a person of his age having the operation: usually it was carried out on children.

The surgical team had diagnosed a faulty heart value but after inserting a tiny camera, they were able to see the extent of the problem.

'I had reached a stage before the operation when it was as much as I could do to lift a pail of coal,' Mr Easton said.

And he had even completed four years' National Service in the RAF and been officially passed A1. Then he worked on farms and building sites for three years in north Norfolk as well as playing football.

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'Before I had the operation I could only eat one meal a day because of the effect a full stomach had on my heart but now I can eat three meals a day,' he told the EDP after recovering from the operation in February 1968 at Kelling Hospital.

One of seven children, Gilfred Easton, was born at Wood Dalling, near Holt. He had been referred to a consultant by his local GP, Dr Arthur Garrett, of the Reepham practice. In a further twist, Hilary, the youngest daughter of Dr Garrett, who died on February 28, was a close friend of the family who gave 'Gil' a home for more than half a century.

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When Gil returned to Norfolk, he lived at the Earle Arms, Heydon, which was then kept by Margaret and Tim Buller. Later, Gil's brother, Paul, now living at Briston, would also keep the same pub.

When the Buller family moved to the Railway Hotel, Holt, where they stayed for about five years until the late 60s, until moving to run the Bowling Green pub at Wisbech in 1971, Gil went too. He helped the family as barman and did odd jobs when they took over the Algethi guest house the following year.

When their daughter, Liz McManus and her husband, Roy, who was a popular manager of Wisbech Town Football Club, took over more than 25 years ago, he stayed on.

A keen follower of Norwich City and later Wisbech Town, Gil also won many trophies with his greyhounds over the years. He was well-known at Wisbech, Peterborough, Swaffham and March dog tracks. He was a follower of speedway at Norwich until it closed and then at King's Lynn. He was an active member of the town's Ex-Servicemen's Club and Conservative Club. He is survived by a brother, his three sisters and nephews and nieces.

A funeral will be held at Thursday, April 19 at 9.45am at Fenland Crematorium, March.

Michael Pollitt

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