Pacemaker op makes an ideal present!

When Jan Myhill was told on Christmas Eve that she had to go up to hospital to have an urgent operation to fit her with a pacemaker she was devastated, thinking her Christmas would be a write-off.

When Jan Myhill was told on Christmas Eve that she had to go up to hospital to have an urgent operation to fit her with a pacemaker she was devastated, thinking her Christmas would be a write-off.

It was the first year she and husband Dave had decided to stay at home in Yaxham, with the house decorated and a turkey with all the trimmings planned.

But back at home she said she had experienced the NHS at its best, spending less than 24 hours in hospital and home in time for Christmas dinner.

Mrs Myhill, 60, first started having problems a year ago when she started feeling faint. 'It was more of a woozy feeling really but I noticed in the last six months it was getting worse.'

Early in December she blacked out seven times while sitting in her chair and paramedics decided to take her to hospital. Consultant cardiologist Dr Leisa Freeman told her that she should wear a 24-hour monitor, a portable ECG, which she wore on Friday, December 19, taking it in for analysis the following Monday.

'I got a phone call on the morning of Christmas Eve from Dr Freeman saying the results showed my heart was stopping for up to seven seconds between heartbeats and I should come straight up to hospital; there was a bed waiting for me.

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'We had just put all the presents in the car to take to the grandchildren and I was so upset because I thought my Christmas was ruined. I just wasn't expecting it to be so quick. I thought there was no way they would look at it before Christmas.'

At the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital she was immediately seen by nurses for preliminary checks and given a local anaesthetic. Just 45 minutes in theatre and the pacemaker was fitted by Dr Ian Williams and she was back up on the ward.

An x-ray on Christmas morning showed the device was in the right place and working correctly and Mrs Myhill was able to go home for lunch which her husband had all ready for her.

A two-inch scar just below her left collar bone is all you can see and most of the time Mrs Myhill does not know the machine is there. And more importantly she has not had any fainting fits since.

'The only thing they said I can't do is use a hedge trimmer or lean over a car bonnet while the engine is running - not that I am likely to do either,' she joked.

Dr Freeman said Mrs Myhill was in a potential life-threatening situation and it was important to get her into surgery as soon as possible.

'Once we saw the results we could not wait,' she said. 'But I told her we would have her back for Christmas lunch.'

Dr Freeman said they perform 320 new pacemaker implants every year, the first one back in 1977, and it was one of the largest departments in Norwich with thousands of follow-up appointments for former patients.

'From April we will be able to offer cardiac resynchronisation therapy which involves three leads going to the heart working both parts of the pumping chambers together,' she said. 'It is great for the people of Norfolk because people currently have to go to the Papworth hospital for that.

'Pacemaker implants are now considered routine operations but so important when you think that Mrs Myhill had the potential of her heart stopping altogether and we were lucky that Dr Williams could fit her in on that day.'

Mr Myhill said it was a very traumatic time for them but they only had praise for her treatment.

'We managed to get away to Mundesley for five days over New Year and we never thought, when we had that call on Christmas Eve, that it would be possible to do that. She has had a lot of health problems over the past few years which she is just getting over but she has always had brilliant treatment. We can't praise the nurses enough because they work so hard but never complain.'

The couple plan a cruise this summer to celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary and hope that 2009 will be free of health problems.