Patient Susan Payne bids to track down Sully heart op surgeon

  • 16 September 2018

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Media captionSusan Payne’s parents had her christened after being told she only had a 50/50 chance of surviving

A woman who had pioneering life-saving heart surgery nearly 60 years ago wants to trace the family of her surgeon to pay tribute.

Susan Payne, 68, believes she was the first patient in Wales to have a hole in her heart repaired in May 1960.

Then aged 10, it involved being “frozen” to slow her heart. She was given a 50% survival chance, she said.

Ms Payne from Newbridge on Wye, Powys, said it would be “amazing” to find the family to say thanks.

“I had a friend called Royston who had the same operation as me at around the same time. When I woke up, I couldn’t see him on the ward. My mother later told me he had died,” she recalled.

Medics discovered her condition quite by chance.

She was admitted to hospital with a kidney infection, but during a routine ward round a doctor mistook her for another child with the same name, and listened to her chest instead.

He immediately realised the seriousness of her condition, according to Ms Payne.

Image copyright Susan Payne
Image caption Ms Payne’s parents took photos of her stay in hospital, fearing the worst, she said

Image copyright Susan Payne
Image caption The only clue about the surgeon is this photograph showing his name, Mr D.M.E. Thomas, above Ms Payne’s hospital bed

She was transferred to the former Sully Hospital in the Vale of Glamorgan and underwent the then ground-breaking technique to slow her heart rate.

“Getting that right was very difficult,” said Ms Payne.

“Not slowing it so much that I would die, but slowing it enough so that they had time to work on it.

“They told my parents I had a 50/50 chance of survival,” she said.

Faced with that prospect, her parents began taking a series of photographs of their daughter during her seven week hospital stay.

Two generations later, Ms Payne said she would now love to track down the family of her surgeon.

Image caption Susan Payne

She has been unable to find out more through her medical records. Officials have told her they were probably destroyed when Sully Hospital closed in 2000.

She does have one photograph showing the surgeon’s name above her bed. It says Mr D.M.E. Thomas, but that is all she has to go on.

“I think finding the family of that surgeon would be amazing. It would be lovely to say to his family, ‘thank you’.

“Without that surgeon I wouldn’t have two amazing sons, two daughters-in-law and four beautiful grandchildren.”

BBC News – Wales

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