I was extremely fortunate that a chance comment about breathlessness to my GP following a walk up North Lee, quickly lead to some tests and a consultation with consultant cardiologist Dr. Stuart Watkins at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Glasgow.
After a preliminary scan, I was diagnosed with restricted coronary arteries and required three stents, two of which were joined at a ‘Y’ shaped branch. This is a slightly more complicated procedure, and whilst he was explaining this to me, Dr. Watkins said that my case might be suitable to be included in a medical trial called ‘October’.
One’s first reaction when you have had a relatively serious medical diagnosis is that you just want to have the normal procedure as soon as possible and, in truth, the idea of being part of what sounds like a medical experiment is difficult to contemplate. However, on a closer read through the information, and discussions with both my GP in person, and Dr. Watkins by phone, it was clear that the trial was not about a new type of stent or a new method of inserting them, but a different way of imaging the procedure as it was under way. This new technology is believed to be particularly helpful in more complex Y branch stent procedures. Thus reassured, I agreed to take part.
When I arrived on the ward it felt a bit like being treated as a VIP. Not only did I have all the normal high quality care and attention one would expect from the nursing staff, but I had a second nursing team working on the trial looking after me too! The senior trial nurse explained to me that I was the first patient to be on the October trial at the Golden Jubilee, although many other patients had been involved in other similar trials using the new imaging technology all over the world. Also that the trial was ‘randomised’, with patients being selected by a computer programme when the procedure was already under way.
Catheter labs are very busy high tech places with what seems to the patient to be masses of staff and equipment, and the trial adds to both staff and equipment so makes it even busier. As the moment approached for the new imaging equipment to be turned on, the trial nurse started the randomising computer programme running, and a few seconds later she announced that I hadn’t been selected! So my procedure was then finished in the normal way. As soon as it was completed, Dr Watkins reassured me that because the arteries were at the front of my heart they were easily visible using the standard imaging technique anyway, and that he was very pleased with the results.
Afterwards, as I was patient ‘no 1’ on the trial, Dr Watkins and the senior trial nurse came to the ward and we had our photo taken for the hospital magazine. The trial nurse contacts me every few months to check I’m OK and will do so yearly for the next 10 years.
My recovery was incredibly quick. I was able to start taking short walks after a few days of taking it easy and headed up Rueval after around 6 weeks – accompanied by my District Nurse sister. Then in the summer I walked up Eaval with our younger son Joe, feeling absolutely back to normal in terms of fitness. Now I walk our dog twice a day for an hour and also go swimming once a week.
My recovery has been monitored by the Uist Cardiac Nurse and I’m just about to attend my final clinic. She says I’m a model patient, but I take a different view. In the Golden Jubilee ward I was surrounded by patients who had suffered much more serious cardiac problems, so I feel I’ve been incredibly fortunate to live on Uist and experience such fantastic medical care which has allowed me to return to my normal life. I will always be grateful for this, and participating in the ‘October’ trial and hopefully benefiting medical science in a small way in the process, is as good a way as any of saying thank you.