Meet the patients: Matt Mackenzie
I was not born with congenital heart disease (CHD). Instead I contracted rheumatic fever when I was 7 or 8 years of age, which attacked my heart. The rheumatic fever caused me to feel unwell, tired and short of breath. My local GP was unable to make a diagnosis and it was during a hospital check that a heart murmur was heard. I was then transferred to Southampton General Hospital (SGH) as they specialise in the heart. At SGH they diagnosed me with rheumatic fever and were able to find out that I had torn Mitral and Aortic valves. This meant that de-oxygenated blood was going back round my body and oxygenated blood was going back to my lungs, which caused my shortness of breath and tiredness. Due to the rarity of rheumatic fever in the UK I was not diagnosed until I was 9, by which time too much damage had been done. One valve was able to be repaired; however two valves had to be replaced with artificial ones.
During my time in hospital I was made to feel at home and there were plenty of activities to keep me occupied and the E1 team were very friendly. I was put at ease and, when my condition and the actions to be taken were explained, all staff talked to me rather than about me.
After the operation I was worried what people would think of me and it made me really self-conscious of my scars and the ‘ticking’ sound my valves made. I couldn’t go swimming and it was difficult when it came to change for P.E. However, as my friends came to realise about my scars they thought it was cool, which helped me get over it. Now I have no problem showing my scars in public, letting people listen to the artificial valves ‘ticking’ and explaining my condition.
I have tried not to let my condition rule my life. I have grown to learn my limits and I have a few hobbies. I have a great interest in motor sport, avidly following the F1 and watching any other races that are on. I also love karting and would love to have a go at track racing. My other hobbies include playing the electric guitar and going to the gym. I am also studying maths, biology and chemistry at A-level and hope to pursue a career in medicine after a gap year. During my gap year I have planned volunteer work in hospitals in Argentina and Moldova.