Alive thanks to BHF research

The Parsley family

More than 50 years of BHF research has helped save countless lives. Rachael Healy meets four people who are living life to the full, thanks to our cardiac innovations.

Only 50 years ago, the medical profession knew very little about cardiovascular disease. Since then, the BHF has been working hard, raising awareness and funds and investing in research to help fight and prevent cardiovascular disease in all its forms.

These are the stories of four of the many people who have benefited from our research.

“He’s gorgeous, cheeky, very active and full of life,” says Lisa Parsley of son Rocco, aged one. But when Lisa was 20 weeks pregnant, doctors broke the news that Rocco had transposition of the great arteries (TGA).

This is where the major blood vessels leaving the heart are the wrong way round, so blood containing little oxygen is pumped around the body. This is why babies with the condition appear ‘blue’.

Doctors told Lisa and husband Jon that Rocco would need an operation called ‘the switch’. In the 1970s, BHF Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub developed this pioneering surgery to correct TGA.

Countless lives have been saved by the operation, which can be performed on babies only a few days old. “We were told the one major factor on our side was that they could operate and it was very likely they could fix him,” says Lisa.

I’m just so grateful that people are here to do research and put money behind it

She wanted to know everything about TGA and the switch. “I had the little BHF brochure and I studied it,” says Lisa. “It was straightforward and simple.”

When Rocco was born, he was quite unwell. “They stabilised him, then moved him to Great Ormond Street Hospital, and he had the switch operation on day six,” says Lisa. “The next day, he was like a different baby. The day after that, I was able to hold him. He went from strength to strength; it was a miracle for us.”

Six days after the operation, Rocco was well enough to go home. “They said to treat him like a normal baby,” says Lisa. Now, Rocco loves to run around and play football with his two big brothers. “He’s very physical and keeps up with his brothers,” says Lisa.

“You never know, it could happen to your family. I’m just so grateful that people are here to do research and put money behind it.”

BHF-funded advances mean the number of children dying from congenital heart disease has fallen by 80 per cent in the past three decades, while life for survivors like Rocco is better than ever.

More amazing BHF research

  • In the 1970s, BHF Professor Michael Davies proved that heart attacks are caused by blood clots. This led to the development of clot-busting drugs.
  • In 1999, BHF Professor Keith Fox started an international research programme that revealed many angina sufferers were at high risk of heart attack. Earlier intervention and treatment now saves lives.
  • Many BHF studies looked at links between heart disease and genetics. The results of one 1990s study led to BHF Professor Hugh Watkins setting up the UK’s first genetic testing service for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Together we can win the fight

Every fundraiser, from bake sales to sponsored walks to ‘baths of beans’, helps us continue our research. Together we can bring forward the day that all babies born with a heart condition can make it to adulthood. Order your free fundraising pack full of inspirational ideas and get started now.  

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