'I really thought I was going to die'

Joanne Fitchett with her mother Patricia Holland, husband Geoff and their children, from left, Alfie, Lucy, Harry and Emily

Joanne Fitchett with her mother Patricia Holland, husband Geoff and their children, from left, Alfie, Lucy, Harry and Emily

First published in Bicester by

ONE minute mum-of-four Joanne Fitchett was making sandwiches then, hours later, she found herself being wheeled into the operating theatre for life-saving heart surgery.

The 34-year-old is now back at her Bicester home, recovering after open heart surgery by Oxford surgeon Professor Stephen Westaby, who fitted a metal valve.

Mrs Fitchett was preparing snacks with her mum Patricia Holland when she started to feel unwell.

Sweating, and with her head pounding, she then she felt a tearing sensation in her chest.

Her husband Geoff called 999 and shortly afterwards she was in an ambulance on her way to hospital.

Last night she praised the “wonderful staff” at the heart centre at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital who saved her life.

Prof Westaby wasn’t on duty at the time but rushed in to operate after being told that Mrs Fitchett also suffers from a genetic disorder, Marfan Syndrome, which affects the connective tissue that holds the body together.

Mrs Fitchett, from Hambleside, said: “I don’t remember much about what happened, except sitting on the settee looking up at the huge photo of my four children, Harry, twins Emily and Lucy, and Alfie.

“All I kept thinking was ‘please don’t take me from my babies’. I honestly thought I was dying.

“When I got in that ambulance I didn’t know if I would see my children or my mum again, it was that serious.”

Mrs Fitchett arrived at the hospital at 1pm on March 28. A scan showed she had suffered from bleeding in the heart.

By 4.30pm she was on the operating table having a four-hour operation. Her family was warned there was a one in five chance she would not survive.

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Mrs Fitchett said: “The operation was performed by Prof Westaby, who had not even been on call at the time. But on seeing that I have Marfan’s Syndrome, and am only 34 with a young family, he answered the bleep and donned his scrubs.”

She spent nine days in hospital. She added: “I’m still struggling to come to terms with what happened to me.

“My life will never be the same. However, although I know I’ve got a long road to recovery, I’m here and have the 10-inch scar to prove it.

“I intend to enjoy the rest of my life and the Oxford Heart Centre will literally always be close to my heart.”

  • Marfan Syndrome affects about one in 5,000 people.

Symptoms include curvature of the spine, a tall and thin body, flat feet, chest sinks in or sticks out, teeth that are too crowded, unexplained stretch marks on the skin and eye problems.

The condition can affect the heart and blood vessels and cause separation of the layers of the aorta that can cause it to tear – an aortic dissection.

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