Medical student sets faulty heart on helping others

A medical student with a heart defect is studying to become a cardiologist after the treatment he received inspired him to pursue a career dedicated to helping others.
Trainee cardiologist Dr Stuart Hutchison, 30, who has survived heart surgery. Picture SWNSTrainee cardiologist Dr Stuart Hutchison, 30, who has survived heart surgery. Picture SWNS
Trainee cardiologist Dr Stuart Hutchison, 30, who has survived heart surgery. Picture SWNS

Stuart Hutchison was born with an abnormal aortic valve, a congenital disorder that would put his life at risk as he moved into his teenage years.

However, despite undergoing major heart surgery earlier this year the 30-year-old decided to enrol on a potential five-year study course that will eventually see him becoming a heart specialist.

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Hutchison, who is due to get married next year, splits his time between working at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the city’s Western General Hospital.

He said that his experience of going through surgery stands him in good stead when it comes to explaining the procedure involved and the fear and anxiety that come with undergoing a major operation.

Hutchison said: “I will admit I was frightened about getting the surgery done and what was going to happen but actually the care I received and the experience of it made it a lot less frightening than I had built it up to be.

“That’s what I would say to anyone who was potentially needing to get heart surgery done in the future and I think it has given me a lot more insight into it from a patient perspective.

“I do feel able to answer patients’ questions honestly if they ask me.”

An abnormal aortic valve develops during the early weeks of pregnancy, when the baby’s heart is developing. The cause of this problem is unclear, but it is the most common congenital heart defect.

Hutchison’s problem came to a head with the growing risk of the valve in his heart rupturing.

He said that his interest in pursuing a career in medicine comes from his family background.

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He added: “I’m from a very medical family. My dad’s a dentist, my brother’s a dentist and my mum’s a nurse, so it’s always been something I’ve been interested in.

“But I think certainly having been around healthcare when I was younger and then having more involvement with it laterally as I’ve been getting this heart condition checked up on, made me more interested in the cardiology side of things.

“It was always something I had an eye on but I think it [my heart problem] turned up my interest in that.”

James Cant, director at British Heart Foundation Scotland, paid tribute to Hutchison.

He said: “Here’s a young man who receives the devastating news, as a teenager, that he has a heart defect.

“He chooses to dedicate his career to cardiology and just three months after heart surgery he’s on the wards in Edinburgh treating people like himself, telling them with great honesty that he knows how they feel, because he does know.

“Not only that, he’s got an eye on the future of heart medicine and he’s raising funds for pioneering cardiovascular research carried out by BHF-funded scientists across Scotland. Stuart is a total inspiration and we wish him the very best with his cardiology career.”