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24th September 2019

‘Back on my feet ‘

Anneliese Kopp was always determined to live a full life. Just a few weeks short of her 85th birthday, after 40 years living in Hersel, Germany, she makes it clear that she is a woman of few regrets.

‘I’ve had a nice life with my husband’, she tells ThisIsMedTech. ‘We’ve been married for over 60 years, with all the ups and downs. We’ve got a daughter and a son; four grandchildren and now two great-grandchildren.’

Anneliese had to leave her office job when she and her husband started their family, but she wasn’t too convinced about the life of a homemaker. Once her children grew up and became more independent, she decided to go back to work. When she reached retirement age, Anneliese struggled to leave her job behind. But her husband, who was also retiring, managed to convince her.

In 2017, Anneliese, who had always been healthy, started feeling some pressure in her chest. ‘My mother had no strength anymore, she could hardly walk or catch her breath, she had water retention in her legs, and physically she was getting noticeably worse’, says Anneliese’s daughter, Gitte Kümpel.

When her condition worsened after different courses of treatment, she went back to her cardiologist and asked what would happen next. ‘He just said I was too old for an operation’, she says outraged. ‘That was his excuse. I thought well, that’s it, then! Goodbye!’

Then one day, Anneliese tuned into a TV programme about heart valve examination and heart valve operations, in which the audience at home could phone in to speak to a doctor. So, she did. She told him about her condition and the failed attempts to get better, and he offered to see her at the local cardiology outpatient clinic. ‘I’d never heard anything about a mitral valve before, that was all uncharted territory for me and I thought, I’ll take it as it comes, whatever happens and whatever they do,’ she says.

Together with other doctors, they discussed and attempted other courses of treatment, and she eventually underwent a transcatheter procedure to treat her mitral valve. ‘I already knew about the catheter treatment, but I would never have guessed that it would happen to me. I was quite happy when I saw that it was straightforward, that I wouldn’t be aware of it – and that was good enough for me.’

‘The procedure worked fantastically well,’ Anneliese continues, ‘I woke up in recovery, and even then, I could tell that something had worked, that it had done the trick. I was reborn, a new person.’

After a few weeks in rehabilitation, Anneliese began regaining some of her strength and started cycling. Today, she spends as much time as she can with her family, particularly her husband.

‘I must pass on my thanks to the people who work in medtech industry,’ she concludes, ‘I’m convinced that this procedure saved my life and put me back on my feet.’

World Heart Day falls on 29th September and is all about making a promise, to ourselves and those we care about, to look after our hearts.