You’re keeping hearts beating

Nicola Morris, Bristol mum to Calum, 12, talks about how research at the University funded by you could help her son.

When my son Calum was less than two weeks old he had to have open heart surgery. My husband John and I were absolutely petrified at the thought of his little chest being cut open. Luckily for us, Calum’s surgeon was the renowned Massimo Caputo, Professor of Congenital Heart Surgery at the Bristol Heart Institute. Calum pulled through that initial sevenhour surgery, thanks to Massimo’s skills and thoughtfulness as a doctor.

Calum has Truncus Arteriosus, which means that his main arteries did not form properly. He has had several operations to place an artificial tube in his heart in place of a missing pulmonary artery, which carries blood from the heart to the lungs. So far Calum has been operated on as a newborn, and again at ages four, six and 11. He needs the repeat operations because as he grows, his heart grows, but of course the artificial tube does not, and it needs to be replaced.

Massimo’s research – funded by you – is trying to change this by creating living heart tissue that will grow with the child. He’s looking at the viability of taking stem cells from babies with congenital heart conditions and creating living tissue that can be used to repair their heart defects. With this option of course, a child could potentially have fewer operations. Instead of time off school and weeks recovering from surgery, children could be children and get on with their lives.

This important research is cutting edge, complex, challenging, detailed, and time consuming, requiring a lot of resource and detailed analysis. There are strict protocols to follow and evidence to be documented at each stage of the research before it can move to clinical trials. This is why we’re so grateful that Bristol alumni and friends understand and support this process, which we hope will lead to a major clinical breakthrough and be lifechanging for people with heart defects.

I recently met a donor in his 80s who’s supporting Massimo’s research. He told me that his greatest wish is for it to become viable before he turns 90! I too hope that it comes to fruition soon, so that children like Calum can be spared what he’s had to go through. There is even hope that it may also help Calum – during his last operation Massimo took some stem cells from his heart and is also researching the viability of creating heart tissue from these cells.

It’s through people like you funding such groundbreaking work at the University of Bristol that lives such as my little boy’s can truly be changed. Calum describes Massimo as his hero, as the one ‘who’s fixing my heart’. Thank you for continuing to support this important research.

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1 thought on “You’re keeping hearts beating

  1. I have a daughter Nicola! My son developed a widened aorta at its origin and had heart surgery by Switzerland’s leading heart surgeon. I am also a retired general surgeon who is a Bristol graduate (1959), so I have some feeling for heart surgery. I was also involved in new drug research, so that gives me a research outlook. I worked in my training in Bristol for the then leading heart surgeon, Mr Ronald Belsey.
    I hope that your son Callum will continue to do well and grow up to a normal manhood.
    Stephen de Garis

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