THE founder of a heart failure support group believes following its guidance has ‘mended his broken heart’.

Nick Hartshorne-Evans was just 39 when he was diagnosed with heart failure after suffering a rare viral infection.

Common symptoms of heart failure include severe breathlessness, swollen feet and ankles, weariness and lethargy.

The most common cause is coronary heart disease or high blood pressure, but sometimes heart failure may be attributed to a leaking heart valve, anemia, drinking excessive alcohol or drug use.

Following treatment in early 2010, the dad-of-two set up the patient support network, Pumping Marvellous, based at

Nick, 40, from Hapton, said: “I was on my deathbed. A great cardiac and nursing team pulled me up, but there is a little bit more to it than that. You need to change your lifestyle.”

Pumping Marvellous advises on ‘five grails’ - nutrition, exercise, medication, fluid management and attitude.

Nick received help on his diet and exercising from East Lancashire’s Healthy Lifestyle Teams, but said ultimately “you need to do this by yourself, because they can’t do it for you”.

He advises that patients get a pill box to organise their medication and try and persevere until they are taking the optimum dosage, even if they struggle with side effects like dizziness at first, because this stabilises after a few weeks.

“You must listen to them because they know best, but you must challenge clinicians in the right way to understand what the tablets are, what they do and what effects they have on you.”

Heart failure patients can drink more fluid than they should, so Nick uses a water bottle to keep track.

“If the heart isn’t pumping correctly, then fluid is retained in your body.

“Therefore it increases its rate and this puts an extra strain on the heart.”

He said people needed a positive attitude to increase their life expectancy and quality of life.

“The whole idea of Pumping Marvellous is to get people to self manage their condition, understand it and its effects.

“You can’t be an expert, but you can be an expert patient.”

When first in hospital Nick had an ejection fraction (EF) rate, the fraction of blood pumped out of the right and left ventricles with each heart beat, of 15 per cent.

A normal person has an EF rate of 60 to 70 per cent, with an extra capacity for exercise.

“I was a stage four heart failure – in the transplant zone. I had kidney failure, liver failure and I had a pulmonary edema, fluid in your lungs.

“I realise that this doesn't apply for every heart failure patient but I was treated by teams at Royal Blackburn Hospital and they got me up to around 30 per cent. I went for an MRI scan in July and they said I’m now at 61 per cent.

“Both my consultants said that I wasn’t the same patient they saw 18 months before and that it was incredible.

“People say you can’t mend a broken heart, but my heart was broken.”