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The Bristol heart babies Monday, 22 March, 1999, 18:48 GMT
Bristol surgeon 'saved baby'
13.54  17-03-99 wisheart ac
Mr James Wisheart was struck off the medical register last June
A father told the Bristol Royal Infirmary inquiry how disgraced heart surgeon Mr James Wisheart did his best to save his daughter's life.

The Bristol Heart Babies
Philip Wagstaff, from Exeter, was the first witness to address the inquiry on Wednesday.

He told the panel how Mr Wisheart, who has been banned from practising, performed an emergency procedure on an intensive therapy ward when it became apparent his daughter Amy had complications following surgery.

Amy is now seven years old and is described as "fine".

Need for operation

The inquiry is investigating all aspects of paediatric heart surgery at the hospital, including whether or not the surgeons involved gave parents accurate assessments of the risks involved in operations.

An earlier General Medical Council hearing only looked at the role played by the doctors, but the public inquiry will examine the role of the whole health care team.

It will also consider the advisability of treating adults and children in the same unit.

The inquiry heard that Amy was born with two holes in her heart, and a doctor at Exeter hospital warned that without surgery she would die before she was 10.

She was referred to Mr Wisheart who said he would operate to "stitch" up the holes.

He told Mr and Mrs Wagstaff there was a 95% success rate.

Mr Wagstaff said: "We took it as his success rate for the operation. We said what are her chances of survival and his answer was there is a 95% success rate."

Confidence in surgeon's abilities

He said Mr Wisheart was "very caring" and took time to explain what was happening. Mr Wisheart was very approachable and inspired them with confidence in what he was doing.

Amy was admitted to a mixed adult and child ward, where the parents met with an anaesthetist to have the procedure explained.

Mr Wisheart again outlined risks associated with the procedure.

13.54  17-03-99 pawade ac
Mr Ash Pawade runs Bristol's paediatric heart unit now
Mr Wagstaff said he warned there were risks to the kidneys and brain because Amy would be on a bypass machine, but he did not put a figure on the risk of brain damage.

Following the operation, which had gone as planned, Mr and Mrs Wagstaff visited Amy on the ward.

Mr Wagstaff said: "The adults were very poorly and we found it very distressing seeing all the other patients in there. It struck us as unusual that it should be a mixed ward."

Bristol Royal Infirmary now has a dedicated paediatric heart unit under the surgeon Mr Ash Pawade.

Complication required urgent attention

However, Amy's blood pressure was low and, following tests, it emerged that she had a blood clot on her heart.

Mr Wisheart told the parents that she would die if it were left alone. He said he could re-open Amy's chest and remove it.

Although Mr Wisheart was performing another operation that afternoon, he returned to the ITU, Mr Wagstaff said.

He told the inquiry he had the impression that other clinical staff were pressurising Mr Wisheart into making a decision.

"I got the impression that he was looking after Amy's best interests and he wanted more time to consider what the problem was. They seemed to be pressurising him to come to a decision."

Operation performed on the ward

He added that Mr Wisheart got heated as he tried to arrange for all the relevant staff and equipment to be made available.

A decision was made to perform the operation on the ward.

Screens were placed around Amy's bed and lighting equipment was brought in.

About half an hour later Mr Wisheart told the parents the blood clot had been successfully removed, and Amy's blood pressure improved over the following days.

Mr Wagstaff said she recovered quickly and returned home after three weeks.

"She went from strength to strength after that," he said.

See also:

17 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
17 Mar 99 | The Bristol heart babies
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