Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Peters article in The Sun

this was printed on thursday the 6th July. Thanks to Jan for typing it up for me. I will get the article scanned in a uploaded somewhere soon hopefully.

What began as a bad cold has left young father of 3 Peter Williams fighting for his life on an artificial heart machine. Today he will have been on the machine for a year but time is running out because doctors don't know how long the artificial heart can keep him alive. A transplant is his only hope. Peter's problems began in 2002 with a common cold which he couldn't shake off. His wife, Sarah recalls. "It was like a really heavy cold, but it just went on and on." Eventually it became so hard for Peter to breathe that he went to A&E. There, x-rays revealed the virus had damaged his heart muscles, a condition known as cardiomyopathy. Every year around 5000 people develop the condition but what causes it is often a mystery. In rare cases, one of the common cold viruses, named Coxsackie’s, is known to spark an attack. BHF cardiac nurse Judy O’Sullivan says “cardiomyopathy is rare and it’s even rarer to get it from a virus. For very few people the virus may affect their heart, but even fewer suffer permanent damage”. Peter’s doctors prescribed the blood-thinning drug warfarin to take the pressure off his weakened heart and he was able to go home. But 27-yr-old Peter was then struck down by a series of infections which worsened the damage to his heart and he has been in and out of Harefield Hospital ever since. There have been spells of relative good health which have allowed him to leave hospital to see daughters Nicole, 6, Lauren, 3 and 16-motnh-old Serena. But three times he has also suffered the disappointment of being told a donor heart was available – only for doctors to find it was not suitable for transplantation. Peter’s condition continued to deteriorate and as the left side of his heart got worse, the healthy right side had to work harder and harder. As a result it would sometimes beat dangerously fast. To stop this, doctors implanted a cardiac defibrillator in March 05 to shock the heart back into rhythm. The implant bought some more time, but by last July it was going off so frequently that doctors had to put him on an LVAD – a left ventricular assist device – to take over the work of that side of Peter’s heart.
In most cases, this involves implanting a small pump into the patient’s chest. But Peter was so seriously ill he need a larger version which he carries with him at all times on a small trolley. It means Peter, of Welwyn Garden City, is no longer confined to hospital and can spend some weekends at home with his family. Misdee says "They told us Peter can be treated like this for maybe a year, but there is a risk of blood clots, strokes and heart attacks." Doctors have already had to replace parts of the device, and what Peter desperately needs is a new heart. Misdee, 26, says "It’s very hard. Each night you pray ‘Please let there be a heart’. Then you think, ‘My God, I want someone to die’. I don’t really, but I don’t want Peter to die either. His little girls need their dad."

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