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Superdocs work their magic on Kevin

Documentary captures heart op on film

Former Antrim GAA star and council worker Kevin Madden who underwent open heart surgery. USO409-112A0A WELL KNOWN Lisburn Council staffer will be on TV next week in a role he hoped he would never have to go through.

Kevin Madden, a Community Sports Development Officer with the Council, will be featured in Superdocs, a three part series which will begin on BBC NI on January 26.

31-year-old Kevin, a former GAA player, was diagnosed with having a leaking aortic valve in his heart in 2000 following an injury on the sporting field.

Kevin explained: "I was playing for Antrim in the National League against West Meath when I suffered a broken jaw during the game and I was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital. When I got home from the hospital I received a letter asking me to go to the Cardiology Department, which I thought was strange. I was born with a murmur but was told at eight that it had cleared up. "I went through a series of tests and was told that I had a narrowing or leakage of the aortic valve. The doctors told me not to be worrying about it as it was something that wouldn't affect me until later stages of my life, when I was in my 50s or 60s, however, it turned out to be a severely leaking aortic valve and it was imperative that it was stopped."

Kevin went through open heart surgery in early 2001, however, due to his love of sport and his desire to continue to play he opted for a natural valve to be placed in his heart, rather than a more durable mechanical valve, which would require he live on medication for the rest of his life.

Kevin commented: "I made the choice so I could return to contact sport; the mechanical valve in the longer term is more durable but the downside is that you have to take Warfarin which makes you more prone to bleeding and bruising, which isn't something you can have

in sport, so I chose the natural valve and went back to playing competitive sport. "In 2006 I was recalled by the hospital because the valve was nearly done and I had an aneurysm in the aorta, so the doctors wanted to monitor my progress."

At the same time Kevin received a call from those producing the Superdocs series, a documentary highlighting the good work carried out in hospitals, asking if he was prepared to take part as they intended to profile Mr Gianfranco Campalani, one of the Royal's leading cardiac surgeons, who carried out Kevin's first operation.

"The whole concept was that hospitals get a lot of bad press and they wanted to highlight the good work that goes on," said Kevin. "The last thing I wanted was a fly on the wall documentary filming my open heart surgery; things do go wrong and people do die; but I also knew it would be a good story, taking for ranted that all did go well.

I wanted to educate people and let them know that you don't have to be obese or unhealthy to have heart disease, you can be at the top of your fitness, so it was a way to educate people."

Kevin, who was followed in his personal life as well as during his hospital treatment during the documentary, said that the filming helped him to come to terms with his second surgery, where he this time chose a mechanical valve.

"If anything the filming helped me to come to terms with the surgery, they were following me at work, in my social life and it allowed me to come to terms with it more.

"Having the surgery filmed didn't make me any more nervous about it, it actually helped because I knew everyone would be on their toes and would bring their 'A' game to the table when they were being filmed."

Speaking of his relationship with his surgeon Mr Campalani, Kevin stated: "Mr Campalani was so good the first time around, the man had my life in his hands seven years ago and there is no-one I would have wanted or trusted more to carry out the surgery the second time."

Kevin, who is getting married in March, has recovered well from his second surgery, which took place in December 2007, having recently opened a new business called Break For Ball, a company which organises training weekends for sports clubs.

Kevin commented, "My recovery was great, within a few days I was starting to feel stronger and was back up on my feet, which is testament to the ability and care I got in the Royal."

Superdocs will begin on Monday, January 26, on BBC NI at 9pm.

Ulster Star