Guinness World Record: Pioneering survivor of Falkirk heart surgery breaks record

Anne Bell, 77, from Banknock, Falkirk, is the oldest surviving recipient of a single artificial heart valve replacement.

She was also one of the first in Scotland to receive a valve replacement.

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Ann said she felt “incredibly lucky” to have lived so long after her operation.

Ann Bell with her certificate to confirm that she is the Guinness World Record holder as the longest surviving recipient of an artificial heart valve replacement. Photo: Michael Gillen

The operation to replace her mitral heart valve was performed on December 4, 1972 at the old Mearnskirk Hospital in Glasgow when Anne was just 28 years old.

Her husband, Jim, made a daily four-hour round trip involving two buses to visit his wife as she recovered from surgery, while his two children, daughter Carol and son George, who were only eight and four years old at the time, were being cared for. by relatives.

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Anne, who was discharged from hospital just 19 days after the operation, says she feels very lucky to have survived and is very grateful to all the medical and nursing staff involved in her care over the past five decades .

Anne Bell with husband Jim and daughter Carol Bell

She said: ‘I was one of three people in hospital at the time who had this operation and of the three I am the only one who survived as unfortunately one patient died a few weeks after the operation and the other died a year later.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have lived so long after this surgery as it has given me the opportunity to watch my two children grow and spend time with my husband and the rest of our friends and family.

“This new world record is testament to the exceptional care and treatment I received, not only from the medical team who performed the operation, but also from the local NHS Forth Valley doctors and nurses who perform regular health checks to ensure that the replacement heart valve continues to do its job.

Following her operation, which was carried out under the care of surgeon Robert Barclay and physician John Reid, Anne’s care was transferred to the former Royal Falkirk and District Infirmary and then to the Royal Hospital of Forth Valley, where she undergoes annual checks by the NHS. Forth Valley, Consultant Cardiologist and Clinical Lead Cardiology, Dr Catherine Labinjoh.

Anne Bell with Mark Wilson, a highly specialized cardiac physiologist, during one of her regular check-ups at Forth Valley Royal Hospital

A chance remark has the Bell family wondering if Ann’s surgery was unusual.

Her daughter Carol Bell, a former nurse, said: ‘We were watching a TV show about the 50th anniversary of the Ibrox disaster and it made us think about how it must be almost this long since mum suffered a heart valve replacement surgery and if it was unusual.

“My brother has always received the Guinness Book of World Records as a Christmas present and we thought it would be interesting to see what the current record was for this type of surgery.

Jim and Anne Bell. on their wedding day October 19, 1963

“We started researching about six months ago and found the previous record was 47 years after surgery.

“However, confirming a new record is quite a lengthy process, as they require a lot of detailed information and supporting evidence.”

Following the family’s research, supported by clinical information and testimonials provided by Dr Labinjoh, the new record of 49 years and 60 days was finally confirmed on February 2 and the family received a framed certificate.

Dr Labinjoh said: “It’s an incredible achievement, and I was happy to play a small part in working with the family to gather the medical evidence they needed to get the new world record.

“Anne showed great strength, determination and courage over many years and I hope her story will offer hope to the families of others who will undergo similar surgery in the future.”

Dr. Albert Starr, a 95-year-old American heart surgeon based in Portland, Oregon, who co-developed heart valve replacement surgery, said: “Work on the valve implanted in this patient began in 1958 by Lowell Edwards and myself in Portland. with the first human implant in 1960. The refined model that Anne Bell received was completed in 1965 and became the valve of choice for many decades.

Nick Walker, UK country manager of valve manufacturer, Edwards Lifesciences, added: “We are delighted to hear of Anne Bell’s world record. Fifty years ago she was one of the first people in Scotland to receive a valve replacement, but the science has come a long way since then.

“Anne is a shining example for other patients that this disease can be treated and they can lead a good quality of life.”

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