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Harefield woman's life saved after suffering a heart attack during a routine test

Claire Taylor had been in pain for three days - and had she waited much longer to seek help - would have suffered a 'massive' cardiac arrest

41-year-old Claire Taylor was days away from a 'massive' cardiac arrest

A Harefield woman's life was saved by hospital staff when she suffered a heart attack without realising – after being in pain for three days.

Claire Taylor praised medics at Harefield Hospital for saving her life, when they spotted she was having a heart attack during a routine test.

The Harefield resident was referred to the specialist heart and lung hospital by her GP after experiencing a ‘burning’ back pain.

The 41-year-old had initially dismissed the feeling as a muscular ache, assuming it was a side-effect of her statin medication.

But after three days of pain, the feeling had spread to Claire’s chest, so she decided to see her GP who immediately referred her to Harefield for an electrocardiogram (ECG) as a precautionary measure.

An ECG measures the electrical activity of the heart to show whether or not it is working normally. Claire’s blood pressure was normal and she was not experiencing any pain in her arm or neck, symptoms that can indicate the onset of a heart attack.

Shortly after Claire arrived at the hospital, cardiac physiologist Helen Pattinson carried out an ECG and quickly spotted something was wrong.

Claire said: “I was told I was having a heart attack and needed a procedure straight away.”

'It was such a shock and I was afraid I wouldn’t make it'

A team led by consultant cardiologist, Dr Rob Smith, carried out an emergency treatment, known as primary angioplasty, in Harefield’s Heart Attack Centre.

It involved feeding a thin, hollow tube, called a catheter, from the arm or leg to the heart then inserting a tiny metal tube, called a stent, which is loaded onto a balloon.

The balloon is inflated at the blockage and the stent then keeps the artery open and stays in place once the balloon and catheter are removed.

Claire said: “It was such a shock and I was afraid I wouldn’t make it but the team were so nice and talked me through everything that was happening.

“It all felt so surreal – within 30 minutes of going in for an ECG I was having a procedure to save my life.

“It was unbelievable how efficient it was. I stayed for three nights and the treatment was out of this world.

“Helen visited me every day to check I was okay - she and the nurses on the ward were lovely and couldn’t do enough for me and the other patients there.”

 

After the primary angioplasty, a scan showed that the heart attack had left Claire with a leaky heart valve, and that some of her other valves were clogged up.

Claire was a day away from a 'massive' cardiac arrest

She has recently had a scan to check her blood flow to determine whether it is necessary to implant stents into more of her arteries.

She explained: “The doctors thought my heart attack was caused by a combination of diabetes and a rare condition I had 13 years ago which damaged my kidneys.

“They said I could have had a massive cardiac arrest if I had waited a day or two later to get medical help.”

Since Claire’s procedure she has felt better and has been less breathless than before.

“The doctors told me that women often experience a burning back pain as a symptom of a heart attack, so I want to encourage others not to ignore it.

“If I’d gone to another hospital where staff didn’t realise what was happening it could have been another story.

“I can’t recommend Harefield Hospital highly enough and I feel privileged to live down the road from such an efficient hospital. The staff there have saved my life and countless others.

“I am also very grateful to my GP who advised me to go to Harefield straight away to have my ECG, and to my partner Anthony and our 18-year-old son Evan who urged me to see her in the first place.”

'Proud' of delivering expert treatment in record time

Robert Edwards, senior chief cardiac physiologist, added: “During Claire’s ECG, the physiologist quickly noted that the readings were abnormal and suspected she was having a heart attack.

“She knew that for every moment wasted, more of Claire’s heart muscle might be damaged.

“Thanks to the team’s skill and experience, a catheter lab – where primary angioplasties are carried out – was prepared immediately and the blockage in Claire’s right coronary artery was treated as quickly as possible.

“We are very proud that Harefield Hospital's primary angioplasty service delivers this expert treatment in record time.

“While the national average is 42 minutes, we have one of the shortest ‘door to balloon’ times in the UK at just 27 minutes.”

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