I was 55 when I first started experiencing breathlessness, chest pain and what I thought for a long time was just indigestion and heartburn. An exercise tolerance test (ETT) did not point to any coronary heart disease (CHD) and I was advised to keep an eye on myself because of a number of risk factors – raised blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history of CHD. In 2013, because of increasing symptoms, a second referral to cardiology at the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) resulted in an invitation to take part in the CEMARC-2 clinical trial.
This trial was comparing the diagnostic benefits of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to other standard tests such as the exercise tolerance test. Radionuclide perfusion imaging (SPECT) and MRI scans identified ischemic heart disease. They were able to spot the blockages to my right and left arteries. I was given an angiogram which led to angioplasty whereby my arteries were opened with a number of stents.
Although I experienced a heart attack while undergoing the procedure to remove the blockages, a further MRI, which is safer and less invasive, negated the need for another angiogram. Additional treatment included medication prescribed by my consultant all of which has resulted in a much improved quality of life.
Being involved in a clinical trial has helped me get the right treatment quickly and effectively. I am more knowledgeable about my condition and better able to make informed decisions about my care, now and in the future.
Since my recovery I have been involved in a Patient and Public Involvement Group at the Cardiovascular Clinical Research Facility at the LGI. I really enjoy this and feel able to contribute in some small way through feeding back on presentations, the development of patient information leaflets, attendance at National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) conferences. As a retired university lecturer it is a welcome addition to my life – and certainly keeps those brain cells active!