A WREXHAM woman is the first in the UK to have her heart frozen in a pioneering operation.
Since 2005 Beatrice Williams has suffered with atrial fibrillation, causing an irregular fast heartbeat.
But thanks to a remarkable new £20,000 surgery called cryomaze she is now able to live life to the full again.
The 67-year-old, from Coedpoeth, had one of her heart’s atria frozen to minus 150 degrees celsius as part of the cutting edge surgical treatment newly imported from the US.
And now the pensioner is once again the active enthusiastic grandmother she once was.
Her doctor said her successful treatment will give hope to thousands of UK heart tremor patients.
Mrs Williams, a retired practice nurse at Gardden Road Surgery in Rhos, first fell ill in 2005.
Until surgery, she had, at times, even been unable to cuddle or hold any of her six grandchildren.
Her condition even caused her to black out in public.
She said: “I would get so exhausted, I couldn’t even hold or carry my grandchildren because I was just too weak.
“I would want to stay in bed all day just so I can attend the Minera WI meetings in the evening. I’d have to stop three or four times just to get up the stairs.
“I also was too tired to even be able to practise the piano, which I love playing. Sometimes I’d black out in shops and have to lie on the floor.”
Beatrice, who lives with her husband John, 68, had undergone a series of failed operations, pacemakers and drug programmes to keep her heart rate steady.
She saw the groundbreaking new-to-the-UK surgery as her last chance at a normal life.
In October last year, Beatrice was introduced to Paul Modi, a cardiac surgeon at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.
Mr Modi had been working on the procedure in America and was willing to take Beatrice on as his first UK patient for cryomaze.
The keyhole operation, called “minimally invasive cryomaze procedure”, involved making a four centimetre incision on the right side of Beatrice’s chest and freezing parts of the left atrium to minus 150 degrees celsius, meaning her chest was not opened as is common with heart surgery.
This technique formed a maze-like series of blocks to keep the irregular electrical signals that caused Beatrice’s atrial fibrillation contained and stop them escaping into her heart.
She said: “It looked at one point as if there were no other treatment options for me, besides being dependent on a pacemaker and blood-thinning tablets for the rest of my life, which is scary.”
Now nearly a year on from the operation, Beatrice has a new lease of life and a regular heartbeat.
She said: “I now have a new seven-week-old granddaughter and I can hold her and play with her.
“I now can also play and visit the older grandchildren, which I couldn’t do before. I was even doing star jumps with them the other week.
“I now have a life, it’s fantastic.
“I’m so much more energetic and feel able to do everyday chores, take gentle walks and I’ve even been to a couple of parties.”
Beatrice is now able to attend concerts, visit her grandchildren who live in Manchester and Swindon, take up playing the piano again and volunteer at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital shop.
The cryomaze procedure is only available on the NHS at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital.