"I would have been dead and gone" - Barry to carry baton for unit that saved his life | News from St Bartholomew's

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"I would have been dead and gone" - Barry to carry baton for unit that saved his life

Barry Newman, stem cell patient

A Barts patient told he had just months to live will carry the baton at the Commonwealth Games relay.

Barry Newman from Wakefield was just 48 years old when, in 2014, he was rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties.

He was diagnosed with heart failure and placed on palliative care.

Despite defying his doctor’s original prognosis, Barry’s health soon declined.

Too poorly for heart surgery, he would often choke or collapse and was back and forth from A&E.

It was only after watching an episode of the BBC’s The One Show with partner Nikki and son Robert that Barry, now aged 55, learnt about a new stem cell therapy available at St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

Within months plasterer Barry had undergone the procedure, which involves taking stem cells from the bone marrow, treating them in a lab before injecting them back into the heart via the groin.

The stem cells regenerate the damaged heart and carry less risk of rejection than a transplant.

Barry’s therapy was funded by the Heart Cells Foundation, an independent charity which has run a small unit in the hospital since 2016.

He was nominated by the charity to carry the baton through Scarborough in North Yorkshire on Wednesday 13 July - one leg of the 2,500 mile relay course.

Barry said: “Within days I’d gone from running up flights of stairs to being short of breath putting kettle on. I never drank, smoked and would use the gym, so it came as a huge shock. My two wishes were to see Robert graduate and to outlive my dad who lived next door.

"When you’re poorly all you do is sleep and watch TV. Luck was on my side as we saw an incredible report about the Founation. I thought ‘this could be my lifeline’ and we got in touch immediately. I took some tests and was a suitable candidate.

"I underwent a week-long treatment in 2018 and felt like a new man almost immediately. My heart has doubled its capacity, my fitness has improved and I’m leading a very normal life.

"I got to see my son graduate but sadly lost my dad during the pandemic. I’m so glad I was there for him in his last hours and it wasn’t the other way round."

The unit is the first of its kind in the UK. Led by consultant cardiologist Professor Anthony Mathur, it has treated more than 400 patients, including many on research trials as clinicians seek to prove its effectiveness.

On representing the unit and all the patients who have had their life changed, Barry said: “it is an honour and a privilege.

"If it wasn’t for their work, I would have been dead and gone years ago."

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