Patient story: Ronald Bennett

Ronald’s tummy pains got increasingly worse until they were so bad that he rushed to Watford’s emergency department. His story illustrates how interventional radiology can be pivotal in saving the lives of patients even with the most complex of conditions.

Ronald Bennett shares his story (posed by model)

“I’d been having these terrible tummy pains for ages. One time it was so bad while I was driving that I had to pull over because I was being sick.

So I went to hospital and, in the end, I think I spent nearly three months there. When they put me in the CT and MRI scanners, they saw that I’d got gallstones and that the whole of my gallbladder was full.  Some of the stones had even slipped out and fallen into my bile tubes, blocking my liver. I was in a bit of a state and the operation I needed was apparently really complicated.

At first, they said that I’d have to be transferred to another hospital, but the doctors there said that they couldn’t take me because they hadn’t got anyone there who could do the operation I needed. This happened twice. The next thing I know, Dr Zamir came to see me on the ward, and he said that the procedure I needed was quite rare. He asked me if I’d be happy for him to operate on me. I said, “go ahead”!

The operation involved lots of steps to get the stones out. Dr Zamir told me all about it. The first stage was to get a drain into my liver with a bag outside to remove the bile which was blocked.

The next thing I know was that I was taken to another theatre and there were lots of other doctors there. I said “I hope you’re charging an entrance fee, because I want a share of the profits”!

I had several operations on different days and, after Dr Zamir removed the stones in the bile tubes and drain, Dr Livingstone said that he could take my gallbladder out while I was there to stop further stones dropping into the bile tubes. They couldn’t do it through keyhole surgery because I’d had stomach cancer about 25 years ago, and I’ve had my stomach taken out, so nothing is in the right place and it would have been very complicated. It’s like spaghetti junction in there apparently so I couldn’t have an endoscope put down my throat either to remove the stones.

I’ve never seen so many doctors in one room in my entire life. The room was a bit of a squash so I said that they should put a sign outside saying “standing room only”. I was talking to a couple of doctors on the ward afterward and they were gutted because they couldn’t get in to see my operation. They’d never seen it done before.

I was awake all the time that this was happening. We were telling each other jokes!

They don’t call me “Teflon Ron” for nothing and I’m fine now, apart from my ticker which is “one point above critical” apparently. I’m waiting to hear back from the hospital about what will happen next. But without the procedure that Dr Zamir did, they wouldn’t have been able to take out my gallbladder. And if they hadn’t done that then my heart would be so much worse. In fact, I don’t think I’d be here now because the pain was so much and I could have died from a serious infection. I’d never had pain like it in my life.

Dr Zamir was one of the nicest doctors that I’ve ever come across. He explained everything. He said that it wouldn’t be a very nice procedure, and that it would be painful. He even showed me the tools he was going to use. He went beyond his job.

I cannot say enough about Dr Zamir. Because my operation complicated, he and the team all had to work together, and what they did was fantastic. All I can say is that Watford Hospital is very lucky to have Dr Zamir there. The treatment I received was more than first class.” 

Dr Muhammad Zamir, Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology Consultant who leads the Interventional Radiology team, explains how Ron’s case illustrates the need for a new interventional radiology suite and scanner at Watford General:

“Ron’s gallbladder contained many stones which had fallen into the bile ducts of the liver blocking the ducts and causing a life-threatening infection. These stones are usually removed using an endoscope inserted from the mouth, through the stomach into the small bowel. However, this was not possible given that Ron’s stomach had been disconnected from the small bowel during an earlier cancer operation.

The stones could have been taken out at the time of removing his gallbladder during major surgery. However, this may not have been possible given his past surgery and it would be extremely risky with a high rate of complications.

After several discussions, it was agreed that the best method to remove the stones was to push them out into the small bowel by manipulating a tube directly into the liver from the skin. However, this was technically challenging for multiple reasons and required precise imaging techniques.

The procedure had to be performed in stages in two different rooms, the Endoscopy room and the current Interventional room: the endoscopy room was set-up to anaesthetise the patient safely whereas the Interventional room had superior imaging equipment to the Endoscopy room.

A purpose-built Interventional Radiology room with superior imaging and anaesthetic capabilities would allow for this kind of procedure to be undertaken in a single room in one main sitting significantly improving patient experience, minimising the risk of complications, saving considerable amounts of resources and time for all staff involved.”

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