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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 April 2006, 02:34 GMT 03:34 UK
'I was fit, but still had heart attack'
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Kevin Jolly was fit and active, and never considered himself a candidate for a heart attack.

When he was younger he had played badminton for his country and won gold at the Commonwealth games.

Kevin Jolly
Kevin was a former badminton gold medallist

He did not smoke, drank little and led a healthy lifestyle - even using meditation to decrease stress, something considered a factor in heart attacks.

But just before Christmas he experienced chest pains while sitting at his desk at work.

Worried because he had been suffering pains the night before as well, he rang his doctor who had been treating him for high blood pressure over the previous nine months.


She told him to get call 999 and within minutes he was whisked to hospital after suffering a heart attack.

The crew dealing with Kevin, 46, from Ilford, realised he was a high priority for a special procedure called an emergency angioplasty, to clear the artery and improve his blood flow.

They routed him from his office in Essex to the London Chest Hospital, in east London.

It was not until I asked them afterwards that they told me I was nearly a goner
Kevin Jolly

Ten minutes after arriving he was given his treatment and within an hour was recuperating on the ward.

"In the ambulance they have to make the critical decisions about where to take you," said Kevin.

"I was really lucky, in my ambulance was the man who had given all the ambulance crews their cardiac training.

"I was taken to the London Chest and wheeled straight up from the ambulance into the operating theatre.

"I think with heart attacks it is so critical they get you straight away to the right place. You don't know what is happening to you.

"I thought I was conscious all the time, but I was in and out of consciousness.

"It was not until I asked them afterwards that they told me I was nearly a goner."

Kevin, a civil servant, said that for the first month following his treatment he had recuperated at home, simply to rest and get his strength back.

But then staff back at the centre put him on a rehabilitation programme designed to help him back to fitness by encouraging him to take part in circuit training and educating him about medication and diet following a heart attack.


Now the centre where he was treated has opened its doors as a 24-hour emergency heart attack centre - it previously operated Monday to Friday 8am-6pm.

It serves a population of almost two million people, from the City of London to the M25.

Doctors are confident that the move will save many lives and reduce the time patients spend in hospital.

Patients who previously would have been taken to accident and emergency departments across East London are now going to the Bethnal Green centre for emergency care.

Once at the centre they, like Kevin, have an angioplasty to clear their blockage and stop the heart attack.

The cardiologists feed a thin tube called a catheter up through a main artery until they reach the blockage.

A tiny balloon on the end of the catheter is then inflated to clear the blockage and a stent inserted to prevent it from narrowing again.

Research has shown that carrying out an emergency angioplasty is more effective
Professor Martin Rothman

Research by doctors at Barts and the London Heart Attack Centre has shown that these emergency angioplasties can and do save lives.

They compared the results of 137 patients who had emergency angioplasties and 137 who had clot busting (thrombolysis) drugs.

They found that, while 97% of the patients who had the procedure survived, this was reduced to 88% of the thrombolysis patients.

The emergency angioplasty patients also spent three-and-a-half days in hospital compared to just over eight days for those who had the drugs.

Consultant cardiologist Professor Martin Rothman, who heads the centre said: "This is the future of heart attack care.

"Traditionally, people who have heart attacks are given clot-busting drugs to try to dissolve the blockage that triggered their heart attack.

"However, this treatment is not suitable for every patient and it doesn't always work."

He said research had shown that in a third of patients the clot-busting drugs worked well, in another third they worked but further treatment was later needed and in the last third they did not work well at all.

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

Mark Whitbread, assistant head of clinical education at the London Ambulance Service, said: "Our ambulance crews are specially trained to accurately diagnose heart attack patients who need angioplasty and being able to bring them directly to a specialist centre ensures that they receive the best treatment faster than ever before."

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: "The BHF welcomes this new 24 hour emergency heart attack centre in East London, which is one of several similar projects being developed across the country.

"The best practice for heart attacks is immediate angioplasty and so it's fantastic that heart patients in the East London area will now have access to this service."

Kevin said he was in no doubt that the angioplasty had saved his life.

"I knew I had been critical and when I asked how serious I had been I was told that the clot had been in a major artery and that if they had not done the operation that would have been that."

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