James Little

At 81 years old, I was the 1000th patient to receive a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implant (TAVI) at Leeds General Infirmary earlier this year. At the point I was referred to Leeds, the aortic valve in my heart was thought to be so degraded – fast approaching the point of deterioration - that I was within a few weeks of death.

Conventional open-heart surgery was considered far too risky; so to be offered the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial and have a revolutionary new operation to replace my aortic valve without the need of such invasive surgery, was not only life enhancing, but quite simply lifesaving.

Once this method of treatment was raised by a cardiologist as a possible option, it took several months to determine whether the procedure was the right thing to do, balancing the risks with what was to be gained, and to assess the best type of valve to be used. I understood that it was a complex cardiovascular procedure, but I felt informed by the clinical team who helped me make the decision freely.

Before, during and post-surgery, I was thoroughly impressed not only by the competence of the team who cared for me, but also the sheer dedication and enthusiasm of the doctors, nurses, researchers and surgeons to do their job. This marked the summit of my, and my immediate family’s, 200 years’ experience of the NHS which is a magnificent national asset. The value of the NHS is marvellous, it’s always there and you can’t take it for granted.      

My follow up appointments have involved an ECG, light medication and blood tests, but on every occasion I have been met by a highly trained, highly disciplined and highly motivated TAVI team.

The TAVI, to me, is a gift which I intended to use to fulfil one objective: to climb my favourite hill in Stewartry, Dumfries and Galloway, where I grew up. I’m delighted to have achieved this with friends and family over the summer. The walk up Barstobrick Hill to Neilson’s monument dominated my childhood and it was walk I had struggled with until the procedure in March. As a boy, me and my many brothers and sisters used to play up that way, so it has always been special to me…and even more so now.

I am forever grateful to all those at Leeds General Infirmary who not only gave me a better quality of life, but also a better guarantee of a longer life. Thank you.