Waikato Hospital sets heart surgery record

Paul Springall says he is lucky to be alive after high-risk heart surgery.

And with the number of heart operations at Waikato Hospital reaching a new record, he is not alone in his second chance at life.

Mr Springall’s treatment is a reflection of the dramatic improvement in Waikato Hospital’s cardiac surgical services with a record 57 per cent increase in the number of operations over last year.

The service was working toward a target of 500 operations but actually did 617, the highest number ever recorded by the hospital.

The hospital has also reduced operating times by almost two hours and intensive care unit stays by 30 per cent.

Following a heart attack at age 40 Mr Springall, now 63, developed a rare heart condition and was told that the surgery needed to treat it was too high-risk.

As his condition deteriorated he started to believe he would never have a fully functioning heart again as no surgeon in the southern hemisphere would attempt the surgery.

That was until October last year when he was told that internationally renowned cardiac surgeon Adam El Gamel at Waikato Hospital was prepared to do the operation.

“He’s as fast as Ned Kelly and quicker than gun smoke.”

Mr Springall was quick to praise Mr El Gamel and his team. “He’s as fast as Ned Kelly and quicker than gun smoke,” he said. “They’ve got a cracking team, there’s no doubt about it.”

Mr Springall said it was a difficult decision to go ahead with the operation as he knew the procedure was dangerous.

“I mean I might not have got back up off the table,” he said.

But he’s now on a healthy recovery following a repaired micro valve in his heart and quadruple bypass surgery.

The Thames man was admitted to hospital last Sunday, had the surgery first thing Monday morning and is expected to walk out a new man – and praises hospital staff for their services.

Before his surgery Mr Springall struggled with everyday activities as his condition caused him to tire easily.

“I could do sort of a couple of hours and that would be my lot. Mow the lawn – halfway through it I’d have to go,” he said.

While he does not have a bucket list, now with a new lease of life, his one goal is to train another winning race horse.

“Now’s a chance to have a go at it. Let’s go,” he said.