Mr and Mrs Ritchie from the United States, both in their eighties, were passing through Heathrow Airport to catch a plane for their dream trip to Paris. However, their dream soon turned into a nightmare when Mr Ritchie started experiencing chest pain and ended up having a heart attack in the middle of the airport.

Mr Ritchie was rushed to nearby Hillingdon Hospital, and after a couple of days was transferred to Harefield Hospital for specialist cardiac treatment.

Whilst members of the family travelled from across parts of the UK and California to be near to Mr Ritchie, his attending consultant cardiologists Dr Robert Smith and Dr Mark Mason were preparing him for surgery.

When Mr Ritchie arrived at Harefield he had gone into cardiac arrest, from which he had to be rapidly resuscitated. With a history of heart disease and previous bypass surgery, he was given an angiogram to assess any further narrowing of his arteries.

The angiogram showed that his previous bypass grafts were severely narrowed, so Dr Smith opened these up and inserted two stents to keep the arteries open.

However, it was clear that another artery was blocked, so to prevent another cardiac arrest, a decision was made to insert a special type of implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a small device that helps the heart contract normally. This was inserted by Dr Mark Mason, widely recognised as the best in the world at this procedure. Mr Ritchie made a very good recovery and was discharged shortly afterwards.

Fiona Wohlman, daughter of Mr and Mrs Ritchie says of her father’s treatment:

"Harefield consultant cardiologists Dr Robert Smith and Dr Mark Mason were amazing. Not only did they provide outstanding care for my father, but they managed my mother so well. She was in shock at my dad’s sudden life-threatening condition and so fearful at the thought of losing her prince."

"I must also comment on the level of care provided by the nurses. Each day my mother and I marvelled at their kindness and professionalism. And they were so funny with my dad. We laughed in room number 7 more than we cried."

"Finally, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the RB&HH staff. Each of them treated us like their own family member. The private inpatients bed manager would bring the paper and chat to my dad like she was one of his granddaughters, and another member of staff would stop by after work just to provide support and encouragement. Private Patients Manager, Gerri Hamer, meanwhile helped me negotiate with my parents’ insurance company."

"Even though we were very glad to be going home, it was difficult to say goodbye. When I arrived at Harefield, I was told that it was one of the best cardiac hospitals in all of Europe. I firmly believe that this is true."


Dr Mark Mason

Consultant cardiologist

Dr Robert Smith 

Consultant interventional cardiologist