A GRANDFATHER of 13 from Burnley has been given a new lease on life after undergoing pioneering surgery at Lancashire’s cardiac centre.

And Rod Woods is so impressed with the skill of surgeons and staff at Blackpool Victoria Hospital he’s willing to talk other would-be patients through the six-hour operation.


The 59-year-old, who lives in Lowerhouse, was struggling to catch his breath and had been off work for a number of months before the anterior right thoracotomy procedure.

The key hole procedure meant he could avoid open hear surgery, which would have taken up to three months to recover from.

But the father-of-four now ‘feels great’ and is looking forward to returning to work soon, as a side lift truck operator at Senator, in Altham.

He said: “If I can help anyone else, who might be thinking about having this operation, then I’m more than willing.

“There was no-one more nervous than me - but all the staff were absolutely fantastic and put me at my ease and explained everything along the way.”

Under consultant cardiothoracic surgeon Joe Zacharias, Mr Woods is one of a only a handful to undergo the operation, a ‘minimally invasive’ form of aortic valve surgery.

The centre at Blackpool is the only one in the north of England currently offering the procedure.

Mr Woods, who has four sons, Andrew, Michael, Stuart and Mark, said: “I was walking in Tenerife last year and getting out of breathe and getting some acid reflux at the same time.

“I went to see my doctor and he said I needed a new valve in my heart which came as a bit of a shock I have to admit.”

Within a few weeks he will be expected to return to a normal life, with only minor scarring.

He said: “I felt a bit uncomfortable for a couple of days but it was a six hour operation so I knew I would feel something.

“But I soon felt great and I couldn’t believe how quick I was up and about.

“I can’t believe how small the scar will be as well. Once the hair grows back on my chest I don’t think anyone will know I’ve had it done. It’s amazing.’’ His surgeon, Mr Zacharias, said: “We are delighted that Mr Woods is recovering so well and so quickly.

“The least invasive way to replace an aortic valve is through this new technique known as the anterior right thoracotomy (ART).

“This is performed through a six centimetre opening next to the breast bone. In the past, the only way to replace the aortic valve was by cutting the breastbone down the middle to gain access to the heart, an invasive procedure which weakens the chest, and it has a long recovery time of up to three months.

“This new procedure has many benefits for patients. It reduces trauma compared with splitting open the breastbone, so patients recover more quickly. With the conventional method they are in hospital for about six to seven days but with keyhole, it is less.”

Recently the cardiac experts were also the first team to deploy 3D technology, in a bid to improve the safety of keyhole surgery.