Hi-tech alert led to dark heart secret

Retired college lecturer Philip Bowden, 61, and his wife Noelle are heading to Vietnam.
Retired college lecturer Philip Bowden, 61, and his wife Noelle are heading to Vietnam.
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Philip Bowden’s blackouts left doctors baffled but the latest technology has solved the problem. Catherine Scott reports.

A tiny implanted heart monitor helped to save Philip Bowden’s life, on the day it was installed.

Philip, 61, from Fixby, West Yorkshire, suffered a series of eight random and unexplained blackouts in the space of 18 months. He even had one while crossing the road.

A series of blood tests and ECGs had failed to detect any abnormality and he ended up being taken to A&E by ambulance on two occasions.

“I got no warning at all,” explains Philip. “I had one in the utility room at home which smashed the tumble dryer.

“My heart stopped for four minutes. I woke up in the ambulance, I’d never even been to hospital before then.”

Doctors thought he may be suffering from epilepsy but tests revealed this was not the case.

The cardiology team, which is based at both Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, fitted a device into Philip’s chest which monitors heartbeats and the very first time he was connected up an alert was triggered.

Within an hour of it transmitting the information from home via telephone link the device was activated.

Doctors were able to ring Philip to tell him his heart had stopped during the night while he had been asleep and this intermittent beat was the reason for the blackouts.

Within two weeks doctors had fitted a pacemaker and he is now fit and well again with no risk of blackouts.

Philip, a retired college lecturer who sings with Honley Male Voice choir, said: “The team was wonderful, a top drawer team. I feel so much better now. Three different consultants and the nurses looked after me and they were all superb.”

Now his heart problem has been diagnosed Philip has his driving licence back and can also get holiday insurance. Both had been suspended while doctors struggled to diagnose what was wrong with him.

His wife Noelle said: “I feel very, very grateful to the cardiology team. Philip is mended and I am astonished at the technology.”

The cardiology department team at Calderdale Hospitals Foundation Trust has received an award for its pioneering approach to telemedicine to give as many patients as possible care in their homes.

The Care Link award was presented by Medtronic (the company which manufacturers the devices) for monitoring a total of 2,500 alerts.

Around 250 patients in Calderdale and Huddersfield who have heart conditions now have one of two detectors fitted, like Philip’s.

They have either an implantable loop recorder, which enables patients to run their own ECG (electrocardiogram) when they have symptoms, or an implanted cardiac defibrillator which automatically detects abnormal life-threatening heart rhythms and delivers therapies to stop them.

These devices monitor the heart’s rhythms – even when the patient is asleep – and if anything wrong or abnormal is detected it sends an alert via wireless to a central base at Calderdale Royal Hospital which is picked up by the heart team.

They can then check with the patient and provide the appropriate care.

Cardiology clinical services manager Chris Monaco said: “This is brilliant for our patients. They know we are monitoring them and their heart day and night and they also know if anything shows up which is irregular we get an alert and can call them in and act upon it.

“It also means an end to all the repeated visits for outpatient check-ups in hospital and provides round-the-clock reassurance for our patients.”

The team also hold virtual clinics for check-ups during which the cardiac physiologists review the patients’ transmissions from these devices online.

The patients are given a time when this will happen and receive a phone call from the team, rather than having to travel and attend an outpatient appointment in the hospital.

As for Philip and Noelle they are planning a trip to Vietnam to celebrate Philip’s new lease of life.