"Magdi Yacoub saved my life"

Rachel McGuinn, 34

Mother of two Rachel McGuinn, 34, from Berkhamsted, believes she’s alive today thanks to a pioneering operation performed by cardiothoracic surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub.

When she was just three-and-a-half weeks old the health visitor noticed something wrong during a routine appointment. Rachel was shallow breathing and drawing in her sides when she took breaths.

The health visitor referred Rachel to her GP, and later Birmingham Children’s Hospital, from where she was referred to Harefield hospital. There tests diagnosed Coarctation of the Aorta, which is a narrowing of the aorta which means that blood can’t flow properly.

“I was taken to Harefield hospital on the Friday and would be operated on by Magdi Yacoub. He came in on the Sunday specifically to do my operation. They had to do an operation to repair it, and used one of the vessels from my left arm. I was in hospital for ten days after the operation” says Rachel.

New procedure

“I have a hole in my heart and that is one of the things that Magdi Yacoub discussed with my parents, although the main problem was the coarctation. He said that I may need further surgery when I get older to close the hole,” she adds.

Sir Magdi, renowned for pioneering new procedures, used a relatively new technique when he operated on Rachel. “They used to cut out the narrow part of the aorta and connect it back together, but you would need further surgery as you got older. Magdi Yacoub did it another way, a new way.

“I feel really grateful. I know that when I was growing up my parents told me that if I had been born ten years earlier I wouldn’t have survived.

I feel very lucky and grateful that the operation Magdi Yacoub performed went well. I have lived a very normal life

“They would also tell me that Magdi Yacoub was a world renowned cardiologist. They feel very grateful that he carried out my operation, and that he had come in especially for me that Sunday. They feel honoured that he did this.”

Eighteen months ago Rachel had a stent fitted. “I needed a thoracic aortic stent. I have regular MRI scans and during one they noticed that I had a small aneurysm in my aorta. They kept monitoring, and after I had my son another MRI scan showed it had got bigger. Something needed to be done about it,” she says. “The doctors told me that they are starting to notice this happen to people who have had the same operation to repair the coarctation.”

She still has a hole in her heart but her annual check-ups show her heart is working as it is supposed to be. Rachel says, “I feel very lucky and grateful that the operation Magdi Yacoub performed went well. I have lived a very normal life. I was never stopped from doing things and have always been able to do what I have wanted to do.”

Rachel now has a daughter of her own. When she was born she had an infection and was taken for a heart scan. “The cardiologist asked me about my history. When I told him I was operated on by Magdi Yacoub, he was impressed as he is so well known and so highly thought of. He suggested to me that I should write to Magdi Yacoub, so this is something I am going to do, to thank him for what he has done for me.”

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