Sheffield patient told he needed major heart surgery 30 minutes before planned brain tumour op

He was discharged just three days after the cutting-edge surgery, and was back on his bicycle, in his allotment and at his part-time job in a shop within a week.
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A patient who had an urgent heart surgery, which he discovered just before he was supposed to have a brain operation, says he “feels like he did when he was 50”.

John Harper, 69, was at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield to have a benign brain tumour removed when he informed a doctor that he had been suffering from breathlessness. 

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John, from Chesterfield, said: “I was only about 30 minutes away from the surgery when I told the anaesthetist. 

“I thought it would be something to do with the brain tumour, but they checked it out and found out I had a dicky ticker, and couldn’t go ahead with the brain op until I had the heart op.”

John Harper with surgeon Govind Chetty, who performed his heart operation.John Harper with surgeon Govind Chetty, who performed his heart operation.
John Harper with surgeon Govind Chetty, who performed his heart operation.

The former miner and upholsterer needed to have a major valve replaced in his heart before he could undergo the brain surgery, due to having aortic stenosis.

He was referred to cardiac surgery and assessed the next day for a minimally invasive surgery (ART-AVR), which can only be performed at Sheffield and a few other UK centres.

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Traditional open heart surgery involves sawing through the breastbone and making a long incision, with up to three months recovery time.

In John’s surgery, just a small 5 cm incision was made on his chest and the valve replaced, with a much quicker recovery.

John was discharged from Northern General Hospital just three days after his heart surgery.John was discharged from Northern General Hospital just three days after his heart surgery.
John was discharged from Northern General Hospital just three days after his heart surgery.

He said: “The heart surgery was nowt, just like having a tooth out. It was fantastic. I just have a couple of dots where the cut was made but the scar has healed.  

“Within a few days I was back pottering about on the allotment and my pushbike. I feel like I did when I was 50.”

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He was discharged from Northern General just three days after the surgery, and was back on his bicycle, in his allotment and at his part-time job in a shop within a week.

Two and a half months later, he had the successful brain tumour surgery at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

(Picture: Karrastock / Adobe Stock)(Picture: Karrastock / Adobe Stock)
(Picture: Karrastock / Adobe Stock)

“It all happened very quickly but I took it in my stride, it had to be done. It was more stressful for my wife, Janet,” John added.

Without treatment, aortic stenosis leads to heart failure, and 50% of patients do not live beyond two to three years.

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Consultant Cardiac Surgeon Mr Govind Chetty, who performed John’s operation, said: “We are proud to be one of the few UK centres that can offer this surgery to suitable patients and share our skills and knowledge with colleagues from other parts of the UK and the world.” 

“The main benefit of the ART surgery is that recovery is rapid – there is no big cut, minimal bleeding and no damage to the breastbone. 

“This means there is a shorter stay in hospital and patients can get back to normal activity quickly. In Mr Harper’s case, it meant that he was able to have his brain surgery done soon afterwards.

“It is great to see that he is doing so well.”

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals runs a cadaveric course that teaches other surgeons the technique, with some visiting the cardiac surgery unit from overseas to learn this procedure first hand in theatre.