The Progress Report - The battery powered heart that’s saving lives

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Paul Davies

The Progress Report is a new series focusing on good news and progress being made in the UK and around the world.

Whether it’s within the field of science, health, environment, technology or society - there is evidence of change for the better, advances being made and trends being bucked.

There are many ways to measure medical progress and for many, including Colin, it's being able to walk up and down the stairs at home.

Colin had suffered from cancer which affected his heart and had even tried several pacemakers previously.

Colin carries a bag with him at all times which is connected to his heart. Credit: ITV News

Colin and his wife are now redesigning their garden and looking forward to a future which was only made possible because of the technology contained in the bag he must always carry over his shoulder.

Inside the bag contains the consoles and batteries connected to a pump inside his chest that keeps his badly damaged heart working sufficiently.

The bag contains batteries and consoles which help to pump his chest. Credit: ITV News

The first patient with heart failure to benefit, Colin, describes himself as "at death's door" and having to crawl up stairs before the procedure.

He told ITV News: "It's a completely new life I've been given, you have to make quite a lot of adjustments to what has happened to you.

"And the fact that I have to carry this with me all the time, if I didn't have that I wouldn't be here now."

He said the procedure has helped him to do the most basic tasks in the house.

He told ITV News: "I just couldn't walk, I was crawling up these stairs 14 months ago."

Colin said he could barely walk up the stairs more than a year ago. Credit: ITV News

On Valentine's Day, one year after Colin had that life-saving operation, he is back at St. Barts Hospital where he was the first to have the pump fitted inside his body.

He wasn't eligible for a transplant so there were limited treatment options, doctors suggested he tried this pioneering treatment which has never been used as a long term solution before.

He's now doing well - the procedure allowed him to see his stepson get married and holiday in Sardinia.

Barts charity is funding 12 of these operations that are currently not available on the NHS and after Colin's success they are now looking for the next recipients to benefit from the procedure.

Colin is the first to have this pump fitted inside his body. Credit: ITV News

Dr Alastair Proudfoot, from Barts Heart Centre, told ITV News: "The opportunity for patients who may be both in the very end stages in terms of years but also living very difficulties including breathlessness, losing weight, fatigue, not being able to eat, it can be transformative."

"And I think Colin has demonstrated profound benefits from this technology," he added.

The advances are spectacular as back in the 1960s more than 7 out of 10 heart attacks in the UK were fatal and today that same number are likely to survive, according to the British Heart Foundation.

In fact, death rates from cardiovascular diseases as a whole have dropped significantly from 1,044 per 100,000 people in 1960 to just 246 in 2017.

Death rates from cardiovascular diseases as a whole have dropped significantly since the 1960s. Credit: ITV News Graphics

Researchers at the University of Oxford, alongside the British Heart Foundation, show how the science is constantly evolving.

They are currently exploring another potentially life-saving breakthrough.

Professor Ellie Tzima has spent a remarkable 20 years on research which is now identified where cholesterol and fatty plaque form in the blood-flow and the protein that could be manipulated them and save lives.

She told ITV News she hopes there will be "fewer heart attacks, fewer strokes, heart failure problems resolved... that is the holy grail."

Professor Ellie Tzima has spent a remarkable 20 years on research. Credit: ITV News

Professor Tzima added: "It's a long way off but that's what we're all researching and working towards."

The ultimate prize and incentive for all that dedication is a patient whose life expectancy was previously measured in months and now returning to say thank you for a new future.