A Patient’s Story: Cardiology, St. James's Hospital Foundation A Patient’s Story: Cardiology, St. James's Hospital Foundation

A Patient’s Story: Cardiology

Dylan Byrne – A Patient’s Story: Cardiology

 

In March 2014, Dylan Byrne (33) began experiencing pain in his legs and joints, and as someone keen on sports and keeping fit, this all came as a shock. Dylan felt increasingly tired and reached the stage where he couldn’t go out and run. His GP started a series of blood tests and x-rays, but nothing had yet emerged to explain this pain and tiredness.

 

One day, at work, he began to get heart palpitations.

 

Dylan explains, ‘I had been feeling some palpations around that time but they had always stopped. This was different. It was fast and strong. I kept waiting for my heart to fix itself and start beating normally but it never did.’

 

He had an appointment for blood tests at an adjacent health centre to his office and when the nurse examined him, she immediately called an ambulance for St James’s hospital where Dylan’s heart rate continued to rise. He received drugs to slow the heart down, but they were not working and he was placed into the ICU. The medical team had to stop and then re-start his heart to stabilise his heart-rate.

 

‘When I woke up, and my heart was stable, I thought that was it and I could go home. I had earlier informed the medical staff of the recent pain in my limbs and that I had been going to the doctor. This combined with a swelling around my joints and fingers led them to do an endoscope. It was while doing the endoscope that Dr Ross Murphy, the consultant cardiologist, could see that I had a heart infection called endocarditis which had been affecting me for months. I knew then that I was going nowhere.’

 

Dylan has known since he was young that he had a leaking aortic valve which was checked annually.

 

My valve was monitored once a year with an echo. Each year I was told that everything was fine and that I might in later life need a valve replacement. It was only when I got endocarditis and my valve became inflamed and damaged that moved forward the process and made the operation unavoidable’ explains Dylan

 

Dr Murphy discussed valve replacement with Dylan. This was something that Dylan had not anticipated at this stage in his life, so it did come as a shock. Due to the inflammation and the infection, a valve replacement was now his best option. Dylan opted for the tissue valve due to his age and his parents were there with him, to help him make these decisions. But at the same time his infection was aggressive. Dr Murphy was fearful that an abscess may be forming and he wanted the surgery for the heart-valve to go ahead immediately, rather than waiting for the infection to subside. An abscess in the heart carries the risk of stroke. During the valve replacement, an abscess was present and was removed.

Dylan explains, ‘I had been feeling some palpations around that time but they had always stopped. This was different. It was fast and strong. I kept waiting for my heart to fix itself and start beating normally but it never did.’

Dylan says: ‘I owe so much to the actions taken by Dr Murphy. Initially, the surgical team were going to wait for the infection to ease before having valve surgery, but Dr Murphy conducted more assessments and decided that there could be no delay to surgery as I was at high risk of having an abscess and therefore a stroke. An abscess was removed from my heart and I am very grateful to the decisive action taken’

 

Dylan describes the post-surgery period as ‘a tough few days in ICU’, but he made good progress and was moved to one of the wards where he praises the care and attitude of all the staff, whether it was the nurses, porters, or catering staff.

‘While recovering from my heart surgery I was still being treated for endocarditis. This made my recovery a bit more difficult as I had, through a pic line, a heavy cocktail of antibiotics to treat the infection. It would be administered by the nurses 24 hours a day’, he says.

 

At that point Dylan started working with the physiotherapists. Initially this was very difficult, as trying to even stand took a huge effort, but the physios motivated him and pulled him through. The rehab was critical to returning to a regular life again and Dylan put a lot into his recovery and work with the staff here at St James’s.

 

After one month the hospital discharged Dylan into the care of the infectious disease team, which established home nursing for him, and enable Dylan to get well back at home.

 

Recovery can take its time and Dylan describes that it was nearly an entire year before he really felt like himself again. His scar healed well. He is now back in the gym and running again.

Dylan Byrne, Cardiac patient and Dr Ross Murphy, consultant cardiologist at St. James's Hospital

Dylan Byrne, cardiology patient and Dr Ross Murphy, consultant cardiologist

The team at St. James's Hospital

What next for Dylan.

 

‘It was a big shock when it happened but I was lucky and with the help of the staff at James’s, and the people around me I have made a great recovery. I live a normal life and try not to let too much hold me back. Knowing that I will have to have my valve replaced again is something that I don’t think about. Hopefully, with the advances in medical science I will be able to go down a different path. In the meantime I am content as I have complete faith in the doctors that monitor me. I know that I am in safe hands’.

 

Dylan hopes that with the advancements taking place in medicine, and with the work that Dr Ross Murphy and the new Cardiology Institute within St James’s Hospital, that when the time comes for a valve replacement, different options will be open to him through the advancements in research and treatments.

 

Dylan described his personal confidence in the system as:

 

‘I couldn’t have asked for more’

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