A Diss charity shop manager is to undergo pioneering heart surgery.
Karen Sinclair, 51, of Rickinghall, has taken the brave step of having her pulmonary valve replaced, just three months after getting married to husband, Andy.
She will be one of the first people in the country to have the revolutionary operation, which has been developed in the Far East.
“The technique was developed in China,”explained Mrs Sinclair. “Doctors will be travelling to the UK to operate on a batch of us.
“There are only around 100 people in the world who have had this operation and I was referred by my doctor.”
The procedure was developed by Venus MedTech – a company based in Hangzhou and Beijing. It is a self-expanding valve device, measuring up to 32mm in diameter. It is used to stop pulmonary regurgitation, when the heart leaks.
There are only around 100 people in the world who have had this operation...Karen Sinclair
“My only option up to now has been open heart surgery, so I was pleased to be part of this new operation,” said Mrs Sinclair.
“Open heart surgery is a lot more traumatic and a much bigger operation. The new valve is less invasive and has a much shorter recovery time.”
The mother-of-two has been manager of the PDSA charity shop in Mere Street for 20 years, and has received lots of messages of support from friends and colleagues.
“I love my job here, so I want to recover quickly and get on with life again,” she said.
Mrs Sinclair first discovered her heart condition at the age of two and describes herself as a ‘blue baby’.
“My mum took me to the doctor and I was diagnosed with a congenial heart condition, which, in simple terms, means I have four main defects of my heart,” she said.
“My pulmonary valve wasn’t working properly, it was too narrow and the blood wasn’t flowing through.
“I was looking very blue around the lips and couldn’t do any sports at school or anything like that.”
In 1977, aged 11, she underwent surgery – a process which involved patching several holes in her heart and having her pulmonary valve repaired.
“It was scary, I was in there for about three weeks and it was a major operation,” she recalls. “For about nine hours, my heart was stopped, I was sawn open and placed on a bypass machine. It was a big thing.”
Forty years after the operation, Mrs Sinclair’s valve is now leaking and life is becoming harder for her.
“My valve is like an elastic band – how much can it stretch until it snaps? If it does go like that, you don’t get back the quality of life you would do if you replace the valve,” she said.
“If I don’t have it done, I won’t survive.”
Jeannie Ross, who has worked at PDSA for six years, said: “Karen is lovely. We just wish she didn’t have to go through the surgery as we will miss her.
“We are like a family here. I think its hanging over her at the minute and she can settle down after it is done.”
Fellow colleague Audrey Cole said: “Karen is like another daughter to me. I think the sooner it’s over with, the better.”
Mrs Sinclair’s is due to undergo surgery later this month.