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Raising awareness of potentially fatal rare heart condition

Brenda Grunwell, Nicole Barber and Helen Bacon are promoting awareness of the rare heart condition aortic dissection. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Three friends from Suffolk have praised surgeons at Papworth Hospital after undergoing major surgery on a rare heart condition.

Brenda Grunwell, Nicole Barber and Helen Bacon have all been diagnosed with aortic dissection in the past three years and are keen to promote the first ever awareness day of the condition.

"It tends to happen to people who are middle aged 50, 60s but not exclusively by any means but because not many people experience this many people are not aware of it," said Helen, who lives in Bungay.

Aortic dissection is a rare but life threatening condition where there is a tear in the aorta. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"I feel quite strongly about letting people know what it is and if somebody they're with collapses but doesn't appear to be in too much pain it can still be critical.

"Time is of the essence, Once you have this it can be fatal within an hour, or less actually."

– Helen Bacon
The rare heart condition is most common in people with high blood pressure. Credit: ITV News Anglia

It's a rare but life threatening condition where there is a tear in the aorta. It's most common in people with high blood pressure.

Nicole Barber from Halesworth has twice been affected by it.

Thankfully her GP recognised the symptoms.

"I was only the second person he'd ever seen with an aortic dissection." she said.

"He knew straight away what it was; called the air ambulance and the normal ambulance to get me to hospital quick and it was all thanks to him that I'm here now because it was a trip to Papworth again for a 12-hour operation."

– Nicole Barber

Click below to watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Malcolm Robertson

Their shared experiences have brought Brenda, Nicole and Helen together and all have praised the NHS and in particular Papworth Hospital for their survival.

"Every day I'm thankful because I know I nearly departed from this world that day, said Brenda, who also lives in Halesworth.

"We need to get people to talk about it like they do strokes, cardiac arrests or any other killer disease."

Three friends from Suffolk have praised surgeons at Papworth Hospital after undergoing major surgery on a rare heart condition.