A Preston man who is kept alive by a battery-operated heart pump is driving to Europe in a vintage Midget to raise money for charity.Advertisement
Just over 12 months ago, Andrew Cutler was diagnosed with heart failure and was given no more than two years to live.
Now 53, this week Andrew, who lives in Ashton, has set off on a road trip to Switzerland and Germany, where he will compete a lap of the Nürburgring.
Andrew said: “All my life I’d never really been ill. I started with shortness of breath, which I put down to stress, but eventually I went to the doctor. They told me I was very ill and that I didn’t have long to live.
Read more: How Preston man defied heart illness to become medal winning athlete
“Then on 1 August 2017 I became the lucky recipient of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), which keeps blood pumping through my heart. It was a big operation, they cut my chest open, stopped my heart, and fitted the device. It’s a large thing to have inside you, and I could feel it at first. I can still hear it at night, it makes a buzzing sound.
“Kids look at it like I’m Iron Man. It’s not a mechanical heart as I’ve got a bit of a pulse. The valve in the left side of my heart has overworked itself all my life and got tired out, so this is giving it a rest.
“I’m really lucky to have the LVAD, but the downside is I’ve got a cable coming out of my stomach and have to carry around two large lithium batteries and a control unit that weigh 2.5kg in total. I plug myself into the mains at night.
“I’ve had to make all sorts of adjustments, but I try to get on with life. Sometimes I can feel restricted, like with bending over. The wound doesn’t heal so I have to dress that every week, as it can’t get infected.
“As LVADs are fairly new there wasn’t a lot of information and I didn’t know what to expect. Only six hospitals in England can provide LVADs. There is currently a five year life expectancy, although this is increasing. After 14 months I can walk short distances but not uphill. I have good days and bad days.
“As a classic car lover I’ve had Midgets in the past, and I bought this 39-year-old model with the intention of doing this bucket list road trip. Then someone said I could raise money, so I decided to sell advertising space on the car. I’m funding the trip myself, so all the money raised will go to the Wythenshawe Hospital Transplant Fund, which is known as New Start, because if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here.
“As well as raising funds the aim of the trip is to make a video about driving with an LVAD, at the same time showing new patients that you can have a relatively normal life after the operation. It will probably be of interest to Midget enthusiasts too!”
Read more: Pictures as classic cars parked up in Miller Park
The LVAD could be a bridge to a heart transplant, and Andrew is passionate about people registering for organ donation.
He said: “People say to themselves they’ll donate their organs but then don’t tell anybody. You need to tell your next of kin. There are thousands of transplants that could happen every year that don’t because relatives won’t allow their loved ones’ organs to be donated. I would really encourage everyone to have the discussion. Your organs are no good in the grave.”
Andrew has so far raised over £1,600 for New Start, which provides financial assistance to the heart and lung transplantation programme at Wythenshawe Hospital. To donate, visit his Virgin Money Giving page.
Read more: Inspirational Preston mums new clothing brand is raising money for charity