19 May 2023
Anne Arnold, from Winchester ran the Paris Marathon and Goring Gap Ultramarathon with friends in support of the cardiac department at University Hospital Southampton. Not only did the hospital team save her husband, Peter’s, life earlier this year, but also her friend Wendy. Now seemed the right time to give back. She explains:
“My friend, Wendy Holman, had an emergency heart operation back in 2019. She was treated at University Hospital Southampton.”
Wendy’s husband, Simon, says: “We were both shocked and scared by Wendy’s diagnosis, but everyone in Southampton was so lovely and took the time to listen and reassure us.
I will always be forever grateful for not just the treatment, but also the mental support we were given. The one thing that will always stick with me is the night before Wendy’s open-heart surgery, I had to take her personal belongings home.
As I walked down the corridor, it was breaking my heart. I wasn’t sure if that would be the last time I would see her. A nurse on her break came up and asked if I was OK. She obviously knew that I was not and put her arm around me and took me into a side room.
It just took a few minutes to reassure me that Wendy was in the best place, with the best surgeons, nurses, and support staff. She was absolutely right, as I still have my Wendy here as proof!”
Anne continues: “Fast forward four years, and my husband, Peter, and I found ourselves in a similar situation.
On Saturday 7 January 2022, Peter was draining rice in the kitchen for dinner.
He had chest pains but we didn’t think he was having a heart attack. We took him to the emergency department at Winchester Hospital where they saw him immediately.
He was admitted, constantly monitored, and seen on Monday night by the specialist cardiac doctor from Basingstoke Hospital. There isn’t any specific cardiac care in Winchester, so Peter was transferred to Basingstoke Hospital where the next morning they could do additional scans on his heart.
That’s when my world turned upside down as they discovered he had a dissected aorta.”
An aortic dissection is a serious condition in which a tear occurs in the inner layer of the body’s main artery (aorta). Blood rushes through the tear, causing the inner and middle layers of the aorta to split. This is often deadly.
“While he was waiting for an ambulance to take him to the specialist cardiac unit in Southampton for surgery, he rang me and his children, effectively to say goodbye because they didn’t know when it would rupture. Time was of the essence.
Thankfully he made it to University Hospital Southampton where he was rushed into emergency surgery for open heart surgery, using a blood vessel out of his leg so they could repair his aorta.
It is a miracle he is alive, but that was the longest 10 hours of my life!
He woke up on the cardiac intensive care unit where he stayed for a few days before transferring to the cardiac dependency unit, then finally onto the cardiac wards for a further two weeks.
There were some post-surgery complications where he developed kidney failure, and had a collapsed lung, but it is amazing how quickly he has recovered.
Only 10 weeks ago he was on death’s door, now he is back home and walking the dog to build up his strength!
The care he received was out of this world, and the cardiac intensive ward nurses are just incredible.”
Close friend, Sarah Robinson, adds: “I don’t think the nurses, doctors, and staff at University Hospital Southampton can ever fully appreciate the incredible way they touch people’s lives. And they do it each and every day – making such a difference to their patients and their loved ones.”
Anne, says: “There were so many teams of people involved in Peter’s care. Words don’t feel enough, which is why we are raising money for the cardiac department through Southampton Hospitals Charity.
Our running challenge
Myself and Sarah ran the Paris Marathon on 2 April and, last weekend, there were a team of five of us running the Goring Gap Ultramarathon, including Wendy who ran the half marathon to avoid placing too much pressure on her heart.
We are all in a running club together, and most of us are over 50 years old, so it was a real challenge for us all.
It was all worth it as we really want to raise money for the hospital to give something back, not just for saving Peter and Wendy’s life, but also in recognition of the incredible work they do each and every day.