Heart surgery one week, back on the golf course the next

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We like to think of ourselves as pretty committed golfers. There’s not much that will keep us off the course. Wind, rain, hail, snow, a really good episode of Grand Designs – we’ll overcome it all for a game of golf. 

But we’re still in awe of keen amateur John Charlton, who was back on the course just eight days after undergoing major heart surgery.  

The 55-year-old from Cheshire says: “I’d not had a day off work in 30 years, but I suddenly started to experience severe headaches, night sweats and my appetite disappeared. For the first time ever I was forced to pull out of a couple of golf competitions because I felt so unwell. That’s when I knew I needed to get myself checked out.”

Tooth hairy

Doctors discovered that as a result of an untreated wobbly tooth, a bacterial infection had entered John’s bloodstream and caused damage to the mitral heart valve.

John was referred to the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital for a minimally invasive valve repair procedure.

Consultant cardiac surgeon Paul Modi says: “The traditional approach to repairing a mitral valve involves opening the front of the chest and is very invasive, requiring a 2-3 month recovery period. Clearly, John would not have recovered in time for his numerous golf competitions and this procedure would have left a visible scar on the front of his chest.

Camera work

“This newer technique uses a small incision on the right side of the chest to give access to the heart, and a high-definition video camera is then used to guide the procedure inside,” adds Modi.

“To know that John was back playing competitive golf just over a week after the procedure was amazing. The speed of his return to normal activities is an example of what can be achieved with these keyhole heart surgery techniques.”

The heart for 36 holes

Seven-handicap John says: “Since the operation I’ve felt fitter and stronger than ever and I’ve been able to play in amateur competitions at home and overseas. Just three weeks after the operation I played 36 holes around North Shore Golf Course in Blackpool ­– and I didn’t finish last!”

“I’m so grateful for the care and expertise of Mr Modi and the whole hospital team. My life has been transformed and I’ve been given the chance to continue playing the sport I love. In future, I certainly won’t be avoiding my dentist!”

For information about the hospital or its charity, visit lhch.nhs.uk

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