Bringing quality to life: Derick's story

Derick Riddell had always been a fit and active man, however by last January his energy levels were so low, he would be exhausted by lunchtime and often need to sleep. The Bangor man had a leaking mitral valve which was getting worse, and despite his fears, it looked like heart surgery was the only viable option.

Derick tells his story.

It all started about 12 years ago when my wife, who is a nurse, first noticed that I wasn’t looking so well. I went to see my GP and was soon diagnosed with a leaking mitral valve in my heart.

Though they tried repair surgery at the time, it wasn’t successful, so for years I took medication to control my condition, attempting to live as normal a life as possible.

But last January things took a turn for the worse. The valve began leaking quite badly, which meant I was waking up at night with lungs full of fluid, feeling like I was drowning. During the day, I just felt exhausted, often needing to go to bed by lunchtime.

It became apparent that without surgery, the prognosis was not good. My health would get progressively worse, and eventually the condition would be fatal. I had a dilemma - having already had unsuccessful surgery 11 years ago I really felt that I couldn’t face it again; but without it my quality of life would be reduced to just lying about, doing nothing.

It was then that I came to see Mr Alastair Graham, a consultant cardiac surgeon at the Royal Victoria Hospital. I felt reassured when he took time to talk through the reasons why the surgery might have been unsuccessful before, and what was going to be done differently this time. Despite my fears, I knew that there was only one route, and that was surgery - so on the 5 June I went into the Royal Victoria Hospital to have my mitral valve repaired.

Mr Graham did a great job, and the surgery really was a medical miracle.
Along with the repair, I also had an Internal Cardiac Defibrilator (ICD) fitted. This is an implant designed to recognise certain types of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) and correct them automatically. The device also monitors my heart, storing information which I can then download from home to the hospital through the phone, so now I don’t need to drive up to the hospital as often.

After the surgery I spent just 2 weeks in hospital where the nursing staff were great – I have nothing but admiration for everyone who cared for me. Now that I’m home, it’s very reassuring to know that the ICD is there as a backup, and of course I still see my cardiologist regularly to make sure I’m making good progress.

Nine months on, I continue to improve and go from strength to strength. I always loved to do DIY projects, and can now complete them without feeling exhausted. Last week I even went for a long walk on the beach, something I could never have imagined doing a year ago.



Cardiac Surgery at the Belfast Trust

The Cardiac Surgery Unit in the Belfast Trust provides a wide range of heart surgery procedures for both adults and children.

Treating some of the most seriously ill patients in Northern Ireland our cardiothoracic surgeons perform approximately 1000 operations each year.

Read more about this service