red background and Stuart smiling
Image caption Stuart decided to specialise as a cardiologist after he had heart surgery

Stuart Hutchison is training as a cardiologist after recovering from a lifesaving operation that repaired a problem with his heart.

The 30-year-old is a junior doctor and will train for another six years to become a heart specialist.

Stuart, who has a congenital heart defect, decided to focus on cardiology after his surgery earlier this year.

One in two hundred people

Stuart, from Ayrshire, was born with an abnormal aortic valve, meaning the valve that stops blood flowing backwards into the heart was not working properly.

One in 200 people have the condition. It occurs when a baby’s heart develops during pregnancy.

Image copyright Stuart Hutchison
Image caption A graft similar to this was used in Stuart’s surgery

It was only when Stuart was being investigated for other health concerns that doctors discovered his heart problem.

“I was only 16 when I was first diagnosed,” he told BBC Scotland’s The Kaye Adams Programme.

He says: “It was very difficult, and it did take a bit of time to get used to because at 16 you don’t have the same understanding that you do when you’re older.”

“I wasn’t absolutely certain what it would mean for me going forwards. It’s only as I’ve progressed through life that things have become a bit easier,” he says.

‘Something needed to be done’

Over time, a defect like Stuart’s can leave people at risk from rupturing in the heart’s main blood vessel.

“It’s like putting too much air into a balloon – if the walls stretch they become a bit thin, and that puts it at risk of bursting,” the young doctor says.

Image copyright Stuart Hutchison
Image caption Stuart’s operation was performed by his colleagues in Glasgow

Although Stuart had no symptoms and was “completely well”, he decided to have surgery as a preventive measure to repair the valve.

He had the operation in April 2017.

“I’m getting married to my fiancée Katie next year and I’ve got my training coming up – I want to be around to see those things,” he says.

What do specialists say?

Dr David Newby, professor of cardiology with the British Heart Foundation

  • Aortic surgery is becoming increasingly common. We’re doing lots more operations these days.
  • Many more people with congenital heart problems are living well into their adulthoods.
  • We’re seeing a massive growth in the number of people surviving this sort of surgery and getting life-saving care.
  • This type of condition is often picked up incidentally in examinations and often doesn’t cause any problems.

“Often with a condition like this you wouldn’t get symptoms until it’s too late to intervene, so I decided to have this done now to prevent any problems going forward,” he says.

‘I went to sleep and woke up fixed’

Stuart was operated on by his colleagues in the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank.

He says working there as a junior doctor “made the decision to go ahead with the surgery easier because I knew I’d be well looked after.”

“I knew the quality of care they were providing to other patients and I knew they would provide the same to me,” he says.

Image copyright Stuart Hutchison
Image caption Stuart and his fiancée Katie, who are getting married next year, have raised £1,800 for the British Heart Foundation

After his surgery, Stuart knew he wanted to be a cardiologist and specialise in the heart.

He says: “I remember waking up and having a great sense of achievement at having been able to get through it.”

“It was a lot more frightening and worrying for the people close to me, for my parents and fiancée. I just went to sleep and woke up fixed.”

‘This is what I want to do’

Within 24 hours of coming round, Stuart was on his feet and walking around the ward. He went home five days later, returning to work three months after his operation.

“Going back was difficult but I’ve been very supported by colleagues and I’ve slowly been getting into the swing of things,” he says.

Stuart’s advice

“I would say to people who’ve got surgery coming up or who have been offered surgery and are a bit worried that it’s a lot less scary than you make it out to be.

“The anticipation is a lot worse.

“I appreciate there’s a lot of anxiety. The doctors have to tell you the risks so you’re fully informed.

“The care provided is excellent.”

It will take him six years to specialise as a cardiologist.

“Perhaps this is something that’s been a relatively long time in the making,” he says.

“I think reading about my own condition, working as a junior doctor, and learning about other cardiac conditions all came together.”

“It made me realise the difference that cardiology can make to patient’s lives. It all came together to make me realise that this is what I want to do.”

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