Nurse with hidden heart condition raises vital funds for life-saving research

30 November 2018        

Category: Fundraising

A nurse whose heart condition remained undetected for years has raised more than £5,000 for our life-saving research.

Vicky Burton, a nurse who was diagnosed with a hidden heart condition.

Vicky Burton was diagnosed with a faulty mitral valve. She was told that this had developed before she was born, but it was only discovered 21 years later.

Vicky Burton, who works as a deputy sister at Lincoln County Hospital, was suffering heart palpitations and shortness of breath around 10 years ago at the age of 21.

She spoke to a colleague who carried out an electrocardiogram (ECG) test, which detected an abnormal heart rhythm. Doctors then carried out an echocardiogram, an ultrasound test that builds up a detailed picture of the heart, which discovered that Vicky had a faulty mitral valve.

The mitral valve lets blood flow from one chamber of the heart to another and Vicky was told that her valve wasn’t closing properly, causing it to leak.

Doctors later told Vicky, from Lincoln, that her condition had developed before she was born, but it had remained undetected. Heart defects are diagnosed in at least one in 180 births – that's an average of 12 babies each day in the UK – but there are more diagnoses later in life. Estimates suggest that as many as one to two per cent of the UK population may be affected.

Following her diagnosis, Vicky attended yearly check-ups to monitor the condition, but the valve progressively worsened and she required open heart surgery in 2014, when she was aged 27.

The procedure was carried out by Professor Gavin Murphy, BHF Professor of Cardiac Surgery, at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester. Vicky underwent an annuloplasty, a procedure that involved repairing the faulty mitral valve. She remained in hospital for nine days.

Now, four years later, mother-of-two Vicky is able to live a normal life with her sons Leo, aged twelve and Charlie, nine.

Funding research to understand heart valve disease

Thousands of people in the UK, like Vicky, have operations to repair or replace damaged heart valves each year. Many benefit from the research and advances made possible by the BHF, but despite decades of advances, the physical repair or replacement of diseased heart valves is still the only effective treatment. The BHF funds research to understand the basic science of valve disease, towards finding a medicine that can stop it in its tracks and avoid the need for surgery.

After hearing about the vital research carried out by the BHF, Vicky was keen to give back and decided to host a charity ball in aid of the nation’s biggest heart charity.

Tickets for the event, which was held at the Bentley Hotel in Lincoln, sold out in just a day.

Through ticket and raffle sales, Vicky raised a fantastic £5,218 – enough money for the BHF to fund one month’s research to grow new blood vessels, which is a vital part of any future therapy to repair damaged hearts.

Positive outcome

Vicky Burton and family members at the charity ball held in Lincoln.

Vicky is pictured with family members at the charity ball held in Lincoln.

Vicky, now aged 32, said: “It was shocking to find out I would need open heart surgery, as for years my heart condition had remained stable. I was worried if I would recover and was more worried for my sons, because they were at such a young age at the time.

“The surgery has left me with a 20cm scar on my chest, which has taken a while to come to terms with. However, thanks to the research carried out by the BHF, there was a positive outcome to my surgery. The only real difference this has made to my lifestyle is that I need to take two tablets at night to stabilise my heart rate.

“I felt it was the time to give something back to an amazing charity which is obviously very close to my heart, so I was thrilled that the ball managed to raise more than £5,000 for the BHF. I want to say a big thank you to everyone who supported the event.”

Keeping hearts beating and blood flowing

We fund research into all heart and circulatory conditions, including heart diseases, stroke and vascular dementia, along with risk factors including diabetes. Each year, we fund £100 million to help find cures and treatments for these conditions. We want a world without heart and circulatory diseases and our research keep hearts beating and blood flowing.

Gary Burr, BHF’s Fundraising Manager for Lincolnshire, added: “We never cease to be amazed by the extraordinary ways people like Vicky fundraise for the BHF and we’re incredibly grateful for the money she has raised.

“We urgently need more people to help power our life saving research in our aim to beat heartbreak forever. That’s why we’re calling on everyone across the UK to organise their own fundraising event to help support the vital work of the BHF.”

see how to organise your own fundraising event