"Thanks for 40 years, Magdi Yacoub"

Martyn Hearn, 68

Forty years after Magdi Yacoub operated on him, Martyn Hearn finally got the opportunity to say thank you to the heart surgeon for saving his life.

Martyn, now 68, from Hastings, was in his early twenties when he fell ill. Martyn was suffering from endocarditis, and had an aortic valve leak, which meant he needed a replacement aortic valve.

It was 1967 and Sir Magdi was at the start of his career, assisting Donald Ross in performing the Ross procedure. Developed by Ross, this was a procedure whereby the patient’s aortic valve is replaced with their own pulmonary valve, while the pulmonary valve is then replaced with a human valve.

The aortic valve is under the most pressure of all the valves, so the thinking is that the patient's own healthy pulmonary valve has the best chance of withstanding the pressure. The procedure is still used today, and four in five patients live for at least another 20 years.

Following his operation it was a year before Martyn, a former civil servant, was able to return to his job working in ‘weights and measures’. He was a civil servant for seventeen and a half years before retiring.

Forty years after he’d had his first operation he travelled to Harefield hospital to meet Sir Magdi, whom he describes as “a very unassuming and caring man.”

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