Valerie Sarin, from Shropshire, came to Royal Brompton Hospital following a two-year struggle with breathing difficulties and general malaise.
After years of appointments and tests, and the symptoms getting worse day by day, Valerie’s consultant, Dr Saskia Jones-Perrott, decided to refer her to renowned expert, Professor Athol Wells.
Dr Jones-Perrott, consultant respiratory physician at Shrewsbury Hospital (and also referred to by Valerie as ‘an angel of a doctor’) had previously worked at Royal Brompton Hospital and knew that her best option would be to see Professor Athol Wells.
And how right she was. Within minutes of seeing Valerie, and based on his assessment and review of her medical notes, Professor Wells told her that it was most likely a cardiac problem causing her breathlessness, and not lung disease.
Professor Wells put Valerie in touch with Dr Alexander Lyon, honorary consultant cardiologist, who provided a comprehensive cardiac assessment. Dr Lyon was able to identify and confirm a condition known as ‘constrictive pericarditis’ after performing complex cardiac tests available at Royal Brompton Hospital.
This condition involves chronic inflammation of the pericardium (a thin flexible membrane sac that surrounds the heart), causing scarring, thickening and stiffening. This interferes with the ability of the heart to fill and pump blood around the body, leading to a build up of fluid in the legs and abdomen. Left untreated, constrictive pericarditis may result in heart failure. It can be fatal.
Dr Lyon comments: "When I first met Valerie she was very troubled by breathlessness and fluid accumulation in her legs, and she could barely walk across our private consulting room. Fortunately, we identified constrictive pericarditis in Valerie before it caused any permanent damage to her heart."
Speaking of her experience, Valerie says: "Under Dr Lyon, I was admitted to the Brompton for a few in-depth tests. Within hours, Dr Lyon had confirmed my diagnosis. This was the best news my husband and I had received in a very long time – a real diagnosis! We had every confidence in Dr Lyon’s ability and without any time at all he went through my options and suggested surgery to remove my pericardium."
"Although this procedure involved major heart surgery and a long recovery, he assured me it was the best option. The procedure is rare in Europe, so he recommended I meet with highly respected surgeon Mr Ulrich Rosendahl, who he knew had the expertise to take on this difficult operation," Valerie continues.
"After meeting with Mr Rosendahl, our confidence just grew and grew. There was no doubt that he was the best surgeon for the job. I had my surgery in January 2014 and have since recovered very well. I have to say that my experience at Royal Brompton was amazing. It definitely lives up to its reputation of being the best heart and lung hospital in the world."
"Throughout my hospitalisation, the cardiac surgical team, including Dr Lyon, visited every day, explaining everything and ensuring I was receiving the best treatment and care."
"The nursing staff – both on the ward – and in the intensive care and high dependency units were world class! I cannot thank the nurses and staff on the Sir Reginald Wilson Ward enough. I was one lucky lady to have been introduced to the Royal Brompton team."
Commenting on Valerie’s recovery, Dr Alexander Lyon says: "I am delighted with Valerie’s progress since her surgery, and a recent scan has confirmed her heart function has returned to normal. She has recovered well from her surgery, and thanks to Ulrich and all the team at Royal Brompton Hospital, she continues to make great strides back towards a normal lifestyle."