My story - Stephanie White

A patient's view: A new lease of lifeStephanie White

Healthcare assistant Stephanie White has enjoyed a new lease of life since she began having regular apheresis treatment at Harefield 10 years ago. So impressed was she with the care she experienced, that she now works at the hospital!

Stephanie has familial hypercholesterolaemia. Before her treatment at Harefield began, she had suffered from angina caused by blocked arteries and had been so breathless that she could hardly walk.

Following a number of medical and genetic tests at Harefield, Dr Richard Grocott-Mason, consultant cardiologist, recommended a procedure to insert a stent to unblock her arteries and allow the blood to flow freely to her heart muscle. Heart bypass surgery was needed as well as a second stent.

Stephanie said: “It was a very stressful time for myself, my husband and two daughters, but I was just glad that the team at Harefield didn’t give up on me. Everyone was really kind and friendly and that helped me prepare for the procedures.”

Despite the interventions, Stephanie’s angina came back. To control this and prevent her arteries from getting blocked again, Stephanie was recommended for LDL apheresis. 

Dr Mahmoud Barbir, consultant cardiologist, commented: “In spite of recently having coronary artery bypass surgery and angioplasty, Stephanie was surprisingly still symptomatic and experiencing angina on minimal effort, which really affected the quality of her life. I and the nurse consultant assessed her and started her on the LDL apheresis treatment every two weeks.”

Stephanie explained: “The procedure involves having cholesterol removed from my blood every other week by a machine similar to a dialysis machine.”
“I see the same nurses each time and the whole team, led by Alison Pottle, is really great and makes the visits as pleasant as possible.”

Alison, who is one of only 25 cardiac nurse consultants in the UK, said: “LDL apheresis is very labour intensive, taking up to three hours for each treatment, but we have an excellent team of clinical nurse specialists trained to carry out the procedure. It is very successful, but treatment needs to be carried out regularly for life.

“Stephanie has responded really well to the treatment and regular checks show that her arteries are remaining unblocked.”

Harefield clinical nurse specialist, Jane Breen, runs a “cascade” clinic for hypercholesterolaemia so that genetic tests can be carried out on other family members to find out if they too are affected by the condition. This enabled Stephanie’s two daughters, aged 28 and 21, and her sister to be screened, and fortunately, none of them has the condition. 

Stephanie said: “This is a great relief to me and generally, life is much more positive now.”

It’s all in the teamwork. The team that looks after Stephanie includes:

  • Cardiology consultant
  • Cardiac nurse consultant
  • Phlebotomists
  • Anaesthetists
  • Echocardiographers
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Nurses
  • Healthcare assistants
  • Ward manager
  • Pharmacists
  • Reception staff
  • Porters
  • Catering staff
  • Cleaning staff
  • Clinical schedulers
  • Medical secretaries
  • Outpatient administrators