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‘I could have died at any moment’: Guy Heywood shares shock of open heart surgery, age 29

PUBLISHED: 14:56 01 July 2016 | UPDATED: 14:56 01 July 2016

Guy Heywood

Guy Heywood

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Guy Heywood’s life was thrown into turmoil when he discovered he had a heart defect two years ago and needed open heart surgery. He told Emma Bartholomew how he wants to inspire others.

Guy Heywood's scars after open heart surgeryGuy Heywood's scars after open heart surgery

Aged just 29 Guy Heywood was told he could drop down dead at any moment when he was diagnosed with a heart defect he had been born with.

His aortic valve only had two flaps to pump blood around his body instead of three, meaning his heart was working overtime and was now leaking blood back into his heart the wrong way.

To save his life he had to undergo an operation which saw his ribcage cut down the middle and pushed aside and his lungs deflated, to allow surgeons to access to his heart.

Guy, who had noticed his health was deteriorating whilst training for his first white collar boxing match in the months before his diagnosis, said: “In some senses it was a huge relief and all of a sudden things made sense - like why I had been tired throughout my whole life. It was due to having two thirds of my heart working.

Guy Heywood at his boxing match, just before he was diagnosed with a heart conditionGuy Heywood at his boxing match, just before he was diagnosed with a heart condition

“But it was like having a big punch in the face, the doctor said you are extremely lucky to be standing here now and we have a short amount of time to get you in.

“I felt as though I was bouncing off the walls. There was shock and despair.”

He was faced with an agonizing decision whether to opt for a metal valve which would last forever, or a pigs or cows valve, which would allow him a better quality of life.

While the metal valve option would mean he would have to take the drug warfarin for the rest of his life to minimize the risk of blood clots, the natural valve could potentially fail within three years if the tissue wears out.

"You can be in the best position in your life ever, despite getting the worse diagnosis you could ever imagine"

Guy Heywood

Researching the pros and cons of each option, he tried to imagine what life would be like after his operation, and decided he would be better suited to a tissue valve.

He explained: “It gave me more opportunity to live a life I would like to live even though it might not be a life that is as long.

“I would rather have a quality life than quantity.”

Two years on, Guy, from Poole Road in South Hackney feels “in the best shape ever”, and has shared his story in an online blog, in the hope to support others who are facing a similar health issue or who are facing difficult decisions in life.

He also speaks at schools about how to face important life decisions and how to be decisive.

He said: “After the op I felt what it’s like to have a fully functioning heart. It was dramatic. Once I had recovered I noticed I had more energy I was more alert.

“I’m one of those miracles that thankfully came through, I want to share that.

“It’s not as bad as most people think and you can be in the best position in your life ever, despite getting the worst diagnosis you could ever imagine.”

To read Guy’s blog, go to www.wearefreetochoose.com.

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