Ex-surgeon with a generous heart

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A FORMER surgeon from Leeds who helped develop a life-saving heart valve and founded Yorkshire’s own national heart charity has been awarded an MBE for services to chest surgery and charitable medical research.

David Watson has been honoured for his pioneering achievements in helping to make surgery safer and his lasting legacy setting up Heart Research UK, which celebrates its 45th anniversary in January.

The charity, formerly the National Heart Research Fund, started following an appeal by Mr Watson who went on to establish a unit specifically for research at the former Killingbeck Hospital in Leeds, the first ever in the UK.

Mr Watson and his team developed the Killingbeck Valve and the charity helped pay for six of the first eight successful heart transplants in the UK performed by Sir Terence English at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire, making transplantation a procedure that is now taken for granted.

Mr Watson, now retired, said: “I was delighted and surprised to receive this honour and see it as a tribute to all those who have worked so hard for Heart Research UK.

“The charity was started to make surgical treatment safer and more effective and I feel we have helped to achieved so much.”

Barbara Harpham, national director of the charity, said: “Mr Watson could have used his skill and expertise for his own gain, but he set up a charity that is now the second largest heart charity in the country and has given over £20m to medical research.

“We are very proud of our Yorkshire charity but our proudest moment is now.”

Taekwondo star Sarah Stevenson, from Doncaster, has been honoured with an MBE for services to martial arts following a year which saw her lose both her parents to cancer but also become world champion in her sport.

The 28-year-old, who is originally from Bentley, but is now based in Manchester, was convinced to travel to the event in South Korea by her mother and father, even though both were seriously ill.

Her father Roy died in July, just 10 weeks after he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour, and just three months later her mother Diana died from cancer, leaving the sporting hero devastated.

Yesterday Stevenson was on a training break as part of preparations for the London 2012 Olympics but recently spoke to the Yorkshire Post about her heartbreaking year.

Speaking about her parents, she said: “They lived for what I was doing in taekwondo, that’s all they lived for.

“They both thought they were going to be there in 2012.

“I’ve got to just learn to live with the fact that they’re not going to be physically here but maybe I can use it as an advantage and say, ‘You know what, no one else’s parents can actually be with them on the ring, and hopefully they can be’.”

The star is joined in the ranks of New Year Honours recipients by another Doncaster resident, Jeanette Fish, who has spent decades fund-raising for the town’s oldest charity, the Doncaster Cancer Detection Trust.

Mrs Fish has also been made an MBE after leading her latest successful campaign which saw £600,000 raised to buy a CT scanner for Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

The trust has bought more than 80 pieces of life-saving cancer equipment for use in the town since it was set up in 1972 and was also behind the multi-million pound fund-raising effort required to build the town’s St John’s Hospice.

Mrs Fish, who was made a Freeman of Doncaster for her efforts in 2000, is now preparing to help organise the celebrations of the charity’s 40th anniversary.

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