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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 August 2007, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
Celebrity Health - Peter Kilfoyle
MP Peter Kilfoyle
'I drove myself to hospital'
In a series on celebrities and their health, the BBC News website talks to Peter Kilfoyle Labour MP for Walton, Liverpool, about his heart attack last summer.

He entered the Blair government in 1997 as minister for Public Service, then he went to the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence.

In 2000, he resigned from the government, saying it was ignoring traditional Labour voters in favour of the middle class, and that he would prefer to work from the backbenches.

He also organised opposition within the party to US proposals for National Missile Defence.

He was also a leading critic of the Iraq war.

HOW DID YOU FIRST REALISE SOMETHING WAS WRONG?

I just felt very bad. I felt peculiar and I knew something was wrong, but I did not know what.

I have given up smoking. I did that as soon as I had the heart attack and I had chain-smoked 30 to 40 every day since my teens
Peter Kilfoyle

I found that it was a heart attack and that I had one 18 months before that.

I had not known that.

With the first one I was in my car and just pulled over, but I just thought it had been indigestion.

HOW DID YOU GET DIAGNOSED?

This second time I was not feeling right so I drove myself to the hospital and they admitted me to the heart emergency unit at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital.

I thought I would just be seen by triage who would just say, 'You have indigestion. You are a hypochondriac, go home.'

But no, I was admitted and needed a quadruple heart by-pass - an operation which involves grafting a new blood vessel to each of the four coronary arteries, to improve blood flow around the heart.

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THE DIAGNOSIS?

I was very surprised. I had never been admitted to hospital before.

I had been for a few sporting injuries and stitches, but never admitted.

I didn't even know they had a special emergency heart unit at the hospital.

WHAT WAS YOUR TREATMENT?

At first I was in hospital for a week.

While I was there they discovered that I was also diabetic - so it was like a two for the price of one special offer at the hospital that week.

I had tubes all over me. I didn't know what they were all for.

Then they moved me to the cardio-thoracic centre for an angiogram and this was where they sealed my fate - the quadruple heart by-pass.

I was told it was an urgent need, but still had to go home and wait six weeks for an operation - some people wait six months.

Then I had my operation.

HOW DID YOU FEEL DURING THE TREATMENT?

I had an eight hour operation. I came round in the recovery room and I was alive and well.

You can look up the success rates for your operation and your particular surgeon on the internet.

A by-pass graphic. Photo Credit; Jim Dowdalls/Science Photo Library
A graft is attached to a healthy coronary artery

I saw that my surgeon's rates were slightly lower than others, but he explained that was because as well as heart by-pass operations he also carried out more complicated work as well as heart surgery.

But I really did not want to know about my operation.

I just wanted to put myself in their hands and trust in their skills.

I came out of hospital last August and it took me until December before I was able to go back to work, so I had four months off, although I did do some constituency work from home.

HOW DO YOU FEEL NOW?

Well I am doing a walk across Nicaragua for the British Heart Foundation and the Nicaraguan charity 'Peace and Hope Trust'.

Some people think I am mad.

But I am going to do it.

I have given up smoking. I did that as soon as I had the heart attack and I had chain-smoked 30 to 40 every day since my teens.

I also drink in moderation, but have not given up, although I have swapped beer for red wine, because they say that is more healthy.

WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO OTHER PEOPLE WITH THE SAME CONDITION?

If you survive a heart attack you are one of the lucky 50%. The others don't even make it to the hospital.

A heart attack is not the end of life, nor is a quadruple heart by-pass. It is just like getting your car de-choked or a plumbing job done.

Your life is in your hands there is so much you can do.


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