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Heart failure doesn’t have to be a killer

Heart Failure - Steve welcomed home

This Heart Failure Awareness Week, which runs from 1-7 May, local clinicians are shouting about the symptoms and the need for early identification to support better outcomes for patients.

The campaign is supporting the British Cardiology Society to help reduce deaths from heart failure within the first year of diagnosis, by 25% in the next 25 years.

In Essex there are around 500 new cases of heart failure diagnosed a year, with a further 600 cases that remain undetected.

Sadly, 1 in 10 heart failure admissions do not survive to hospital discharge and 1 in 3 of those who do survive, do not survive past one year.

Hoping to change that picture is Dr Henry Oluwasefunmi Savage, Consultant Cardiologist and Heart Failure Lead at Essex Cardiothoracic Centre (Essex CTC), part of Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

He’s wanting to make people aware of the early symptoms, which include breathlessness, fluid build-up and fatigue.

Dr Savage said: “Early detection of heart failure is crucial in improving patient outcomes, the severity of their symptoms, their quality of life, and reduction of risk of hospitalisation and death. Currently 80% of people with heart failure are first diagnosed during a hospital admission, I want to change that.

“That’s why I am passionate about raising awareness of this condition, working with clinical colleagues, we are using this week for campaigning to kick heart failure into touch.

“People assume it’s a death sentence and ask me ‘when am I going to die?’ I always say if we catch you early, we can help you return to a full life.”

One of those people is heart failure patient, Steve Symmons, from Rayleigh, who was diagnosed with heart failure in 2017 at just 48.

He hadn’t felt the initial symptoms you’d expect with a failing heart, it was only a night of feeling sick and chest pain that prompted him to seek help at Southend A&E.

After being treated at specialist hospital units at Essex CTC at the Trust, and The Papworth Hospital, Steve was given a mechanical heart and then a full heart transplant.

He said: “I had my transplant in June 2019, this year will be my fourth Heart Anniversary on 15 June. It’s really affected me and my family emotionally. I can’t fault the treatment but trying to get your head around what’s happened has been really hard.

“I’m here and owe my life to medical science, so I’d say to people not to ignore things if you’re feeling strange, get a blood test, see someone, and get yourself checked out, it might just save your life.

Steve is chairperson for the newly formed Essex Heart Failure Patient Support Group, called ‘Pump up the Volume’.

People experiencing breathlessness, fatigue and a build-up of fluid should seek help from their GP.

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