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Last Updated: Friday, 23 June 2006, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Marathon heart attack victim joy
By Emma Wilkinson

Mr Barnett with Karen Jones senior sister at the Heart Attack Centre
Mr Barnett with Karen Jones senior sister at the Heart Attack Centre
An experienced runner who collapsed with a heart attack during the London Marathon is already back at work thanks to a state-of-the-art treatment.

Graham Barnett, 51, suffered a serious heart attack at the 20th mile mark of the marathon seven weeks ago.

Mr Barnett expected to finish the race - his 19th marathon - with ease and had been doing 22-mile training runs without incident.

He had to be resuscitated at the scene by the St. John Ambulance teams.

Fortunately for Mr Barnett, who works as a postman, he was treated in the new 24-hour Heart Attack Centre at the London Chest Hospital.

"I still have no idea why it happened. I'm a very fit person and this was my tenth London marathon"
Graham Barnett

The specialist centre, which is the largest of its kind in the UK, is able to treat emergency patients with a minimally invasive procedure called an angioplasty to clear the blockage and stop the heart attack, instead of the commonly used clot-busting drugs.

The team at the Heart Attack Centre, who were able to operate within minutes of him arriving at the unit, inserted a thin tube called a catheter into his leg and fed it up through the main arteries until it reached the blockage.

During the 40-minute operation, a tiny balloon on the end of the catheter was then inflated to clear the blockage. A tiny metal scaffold, called a stent, was then inserted into the artery to stop it from narrowing and becoming blocked again.

This surgery can only be done in emergency cases in a few specialised units around the country. Mr Barnett's condition was so serious, he was kept unconscious until the following day.

Memory loss

He said: "When I woke up I had no idea where I was.

"To this day I still have no memory of the race or even what I did on the morning of the race. A friend gave me a lift to the start but I don't remember any of it.

"I still have no idea why it happened. I'm a very fit person and this was my tenth London marathon. In the weeks up to the race I had been going on 22 mile runs without any problems."

"I always had the impression that once you suffered a heart attack you just kept going downhill but that isn't the case with me.

"I walked for an hour on the day I was released from hospital, have already returned to work part-time and have plans to do more marathons in the future. I think you need to stay positive and set small achievable targets."


Dr Thuraia Nageh, the consultant cardiologist who performed Mr Barnett angioplasty, said: "Graham's condition was very serious indeed when he was brought in to us.

"What was surprising was one of the biggest risk factors for this type of heart attack is smoking but he is not a smoker.

"It was clear from the angiogram that he had completely blocked a very important artery in his heart which directly led to his heart attack."

She added that angioplasty was normally done as an elective procedure in people with heart disease.

"You have to have an experienced unit, which is properly equipped and staffed to be able to do this.

"I was delighted to see the dramatic recovery he has made following this life saving procedure."

Research by doctors at the Barts and The London Heart Attack Centre has shown patients have nearly a 10% better survival rate with an angioplasty than those who receive traditional clot-busting drugs which try to dissolve the clot.

They also found that on average patients spend far less time in hospital following an angioplasty.

Consultant Cardiologist Professor Martin Rothman, who heads the Barts and The London Heart Attack Centre, said: "This is the future of heart attack care. Treatment using clot busting drugs is not always suitable and doesn't always work.

"Research has shown that carrying out the emergency angioplasty is more effective. It saves lives, reduces risk of a further heart attack and enables patients to go home sooner."

Mr Barnett said he was still going to collect his marathon sponsorship money for Cancer Research.

"I've been telling everyone that I ran the first 20 miles and did the last six in an ambulance. They have to pay up!"

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