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Local heart doctor leads way in research and development

A Darlington resident is supporting the medical research work of a local consultant into heart failure after losing her eldest son to the condition at the age of only 42.

Seventy year old, Doreen Edgar lost her eldest son, David, to heart failure last year when he was in his early 40s.

Doreen said: "My father had heart problems but he was a smoker so I'd made sure that I didn't do anything that he did but I was still affected. It turned out for us that it is very much a genetic condition. My mother and my brother also suffered heart problems and last year my eldest son died from a heart complication. He was only 42. This has made me determined to do all that I can and is why I feel research into heart failure is so important."

Local heart doctor leads way in research

Professor Jerry Murphy, a Consultant Cardiologist at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, is leading the way to improving care and treatment for heart patients after recently taking up a prestigious research role with Durham University.

Dr Murphy has been appointed as Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine in the University's School of Medicine and Health which is based at its Queen's Campus in Stockton. He will be leading a number of research projects to investigate cardiovascular conditions and how these can be diagnosed and managed better while also continuing his clinical duties, treating patients at Darlington Memorial Hospital.

Professor Murphy said: "I was delighted to be appointed as Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Durham University. This is the first position of its kind within the Trust and marks a pioneering partnership between the Trust and the University to lead research and development into a medical area which affects many people living in the North East."

Professor Murphy's research interests are primarily in heart failure, a common condition resulting from weakness of the heart muscle. His team have studied better ways to diagnose and treat heart failure. These studies have included new clinical, biochemical and genetic tests to help identify patients, new treatments and ways to improve patient care. Patients with heart failure are actively involved with the research team and ensure a patient-focussed approach. The aim is to improve outcome and quality of life.

Professor Murphy continued: "This is an exciting opportunity to work more closely with patients and local people to improve our understanding of cardiovascular conditions such as heart failure and the effects that lifestyle for example can have on such conditions and then use this information in developing new and innovative ways in which we can treat and care for patients."

It is hoped that the research will help patients like Doreen and her family. Doreen, a retired teacher, has always led a healthy lifestyle, she doesn't smoke or drink but in 1995 she suffered the first of two heart attacks, and in 1996 she had heart bypass surgery.

Doreen has been a patient of Dr Murphy's for 13 years and is now working with him on his research projects. Doreen said: "Before my first heart attack, I'd been suffering from what I thought was indigestion for about a year. I later learnt that this had in fact been angina pains. The pain was happening when I was at rest so I didn't realise what it meant.

"After I had heart surgery I thought it would be like a magic wand and fix everything but I went on to develop heart failure. It means that now I can't walk very far and rely on my husband to take me to places and pick me up again but the worst thing is the tiredness. It's hard to describe the terrible bouts of tiredness that you experience. I can fall asleep in the middle of my breakfast having just got up, because the tiredness is so extreme. Apparently this is a common symptom of heart failure patients. It just affects your overall quality of life. You have to find something to get that quality of life back so when I'm well enough I go to art classes and enjoy painting which is very therapeutic and I also go to tai chi and until recently yoga classes. These are things that we organise through the coronary care support group which we have in Darlington.

"Dr Murphy suggested that we start the heart failure group, it's just a small group but it is very reassuring. We can talk to each other and the heart failure nurse, who attends our meetings, about any worries or problems that we are having. Quite often the speaker at our meeting will also talk about problems that we meet.

"I'm extremely supportive of the research work that Dr Murphy is doing, I'm working with him to provide a patient perspective on three different projects. One to look at the end of life pathway for heart failure patients, then heart failure in care homes and thirdly to look at the different ways heart failure is diagnosed and treated, with the aim to define best practice for all patients. I'm looking forward to getting involved in the discussions and seeing the projects develop further."

'The treatment I have received from all the staff has been excellent and could you extend my thanks to them all. A very thankful and relieved patient'.

Patient, Dermatology Outpatients Department, University Hospital of North Durham