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Last Updated: Monday, 13 August 2007, 09:15 GMT 10:15 UK
Brought back to life four times
By Emma Jay
Fight for Life, Producer

A series on BBC One follows real life patients in A&E and operating theatres with specially shot material and unique computer generated imagery to show the fight for survival from the inside.

Geoffrey after angioplasty to remove a clot from his heart
Geoffrey had an angioplasty to remove a clot from his heart

On 11 April last year Geoffrey George, 63, was out buying lunch for his family when he started getting chest pains.

He was rushed by ambulance to Birmingham Heartlands Hospital where a heart attack caused his heart to go into cardiac arrest.

The heart attack was caused by a clot that had formed in one of the arteries supplying his heart.

His heart muscle cells were being starved of vital blood and oxygen and were dying.

Heart muscle cells produce the electrical impulses that make our hearts beat. As more of these cells died the impulses had started to go out of sync.

Geoffrey's heart was just flapping, it wasn't pumping blood and oxygen around his body.

His heart had to be shocked back to a normal rhythm with a defibrillator.

Geoffrey is defibrillated as he has multiple heart attacks
Doctors used a defibrillator to shock Geoffrey's heart into working

He recovered briefly, but as the clot, the cause of the heart attack, was still there, Geoffrey went on to have three further cardiac arrests, in just 30 minutes.

Coronary heart disease, where cholesterol builds up as fatty plaques along the walls of the coronary arteries, is the biggest killer in the UK, causing 105,000 deaths a year.

A heart attack is caused by these plaques splitting open, causing a clot to form. These clots may only be a few millimetres in diameter, but this can be enough to block a key artery.

Open up the arteries

Geoffrey's doctors urgent priority was to open up this blocked artery.

"The heart muscle starts to die, the longer the artery is blocked, the more the risk of complications exists," said Dr El-Gaylani, of Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.

"The earlier the better, and what we say, time is muscle and muscle is life."

Geoffrey underwent a primary angioplasty procedure. A tube was passed up a vessel in his wrist, through the arteries in his body, right to the surface of his heart.

Geoffrey recovering in hospital after his heart attacks
Geoffrey feels like he has been given a second chance

Dye was flushed through the tube to make the clot show up on an X-ray.

Once it was located a guide-wire was threaded up the tube with a tiny balloon on the end.

At the site of the clot this balloon was expanded, and the clot squashed back out of the way.

A stent (a small expandable mesh cylinder) was then inserted and placed at the site of the clot. This held the artery open and prevented the clot reforming.

Over the next few months the cells in Geoffrey's artery grew over this stent, making it a permanent part of his heart.

Geoffrey endured four cardiac arrests, but just three days after the ordeal he was already able to leave hospital.

The experience has changed his outlook on life,

"I'll have a totally different attitude, that there for the grace of god I wouldn't be here. I was lucky. Now it's like I'm born again.

"I was given a second chance and I'm going to take advantage of it. I'm going to be Mr Nice from now on!"

  • Fight for Life will be broadcast on 13 August at 2100 BST on BBC One.

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