SOUTHEND Hospital surgeons have, for the first time, implanted a defibrillator into a man with a rare heart problem.

The delicate procedure saw a Swiss-made titanium device inserted into the chest of Roy Harrington who was found to be suffering from a life-threatening heart condition following a stroke.

The remarkable device is able to detect any potentially lethal change to the heart rhythm and deliver a shock to make the heart reverts back to a safe and steady pace.

Mr Harrington, 58, was completely unaware he had a heart problem until he had a stroke a year ago. He had suffered no symptoms and had no family history of heart disease. He made a good recovery from the stroke and it was only in subsequent tests that he discovered he had dilated cardiomyopathy – deterioration of the heart muscle.

The father-of-three of High Road, Benfleet, said: “I did get a bit breathless but just put that down to being a bit out of condition. ”Other than that I had no symptoms at all.

“The stroke was just like the adverts and not very pleasant. My speech started to slur but if a stroke can be lucky then I am very lucky because they wouldn’t have discovered the heart problem otherwise. I could have just collapsed with a heart attack.”

The device has been inserted beneath the skin near Mr Harrington’s collar bone, The procedure, which took about an hour, was performed by Dr Sajjad Mazhar with the help of senior physiologists Nikki Baines and Katy Deane.

Mr Harrington added: “It is a wonderful piece of kit – just about the size of a small box of matches and weighs about the same as a cup of tea.

“I did not think I needed it but the doctors felt I did so I was guided by the experts. It is going to be a life-saving measure.

“There was no pain with the procedure. I just felt a bit of pressure and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is told they need it.”

Hours after having the device inserted, Mr Harrington a retired Southend Council worker, was able to go home to his wife, Andrea, 49 and three sons aged 16 to 22.

He said: “I went into hospital for the procedure just five days after my assessment and everyone has looked after me very well.”

Until now, patients requiring this service have had to go either to a London hospital or to the cardiac care centre at Basildon.

Ms Baines said: “From a patient’s point of view, it is much better to be able to have it done here and not have to travel. “We expect to carry ou t 22 procedures in the first year, increasingly steadily after that.”


*IMPLANTABLE cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) continuously monitor the heart to treat tachycardia - fast heart beats - and prevent sudden cardiac death. If a dangerously fast heart rate is detected, a small, painless electrical signal is sent to correct it.

If the faster heart rate continues, the ICD is designed to deliver a life-saving shock and restore the heart to a more normal rate. They differ to pacemakers which continuously monitor the heart to treat bradycardia - a slow, irregular, or interrupted heartbeat.

If a pacemaker detects a rhythm problem, it will send out small, undetectable electrical signals to correct it to restore the heart to a more normal rate but they do not deliver shocks.

Amy Greenhalgh, spokeswoman for the manufacturers Medtronic said: “Having the implant means that patients are not reliant on being near a telephone or someone trained in first aid if the heart suddenly starts racing. The device will automatically kick in to regulate the heart rhythm.”