I was 12 when I had my operation and of course I was scared. I remember that the girl who had the same operation just before me didn’t come through. So I knew it was major surgery, and risky.
It was just a year after the first successful operation of its kind was carried out at the hospital, and the NHS had only been in existence for nine years.
My doctor was Lord Brock, who pioneered both the hypothermia technique and the heart-lung machine, working with Mr Ben Milstein, who became famous as an early pioneer of open-heart surgery.
The operation worked, and soon I was thriving. The atrial septal defect had prevented me growing, so after the operation I was happy that I shot up in height from 4’5” to 5’6” … although all four of my grandchildren – who are aged between 13 and 17 – are taller than me!
I am glad to say that I have had a very full life. I still have my annual check-ups at Royal Brompton. I vividly remember it being 40 years since the operation, and celebrating being given a clean bill of health. It’s remarkable to think that I’m now on my diamond anniversary!”
Arthur Aptowitzer, 72, had heart surgery at Royal Brompton for his atrial septal defect (ASD) at the end of 1957.