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How Research Gave Back A Young Dad’s Life

Father-of-one Daniel Balmforth never thought heart disease would affect him at such a young age…

Daniel Balmforth Young Dad’s Life

Father-of-one Daniel Balmforth never thought heart disease would affect him at such a young age, but what began as him collapsing at work one morning spiralled into four years of visiting the emergency department on a weekly basis.

“Being in the cardiac ward at 38-years-old and being the youngest person there by 40 odd years felt very strange….”

“It came out of nowhere. I collapsed at work one day, and then it just kept happening, multiple times a week. I would collapse literally out of nowhere,” Daniel said.

“The attacks were excruciating. It felt like I was getting stabbed multiple times, and then my heart would begin to spasm, so it felt as if a knife is being twisted inside your body.

“It got to the point where I was in hospital five days out of seven each week. Sometimes I would be in the morning and then back in the afternoon.”

Baffling medical professionals, Daniel was suffering from refractory vasospastic angina, a form of angina which causes heart arteries to spasm. For many sufferers of vasospastic angina, it is only a major or minor heart vessel that spasms when an attack occurs, but in Daniel’s case it was both.

“This is why it was such a mystery as the professionals hadn’t seen it before and they didn’t know how to treat it.”

Fired from his job and unable to even travel to the local supermarket without risk of a sudden attack, Daniel was becoming increasingly frustrated with his debilitating condition until he made contact with Professor John Beltrame, Head of the Discipline of Medicine and Cardiologist at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (TQEH).

Fortunately having a well-established research interest in vasospastic angina, Prof Beltrame was confident he knew what Daniel was suffering from and organised a procedure to confirm his suspicions.

“We were about to induce a spasm when Daniel actually experienced a spasm in the middle of the procedure and that’s when we made the diagnosis,” Prof Beltrame said.

“After this we trialled many conventional and unconventional cardiac drugs to try and control Daniel’s refractory vasospastic angina, which demonstrated the ongoing research needed to identify drugs for this condition.

“Through my research I was aware of an international study suggesting that a particular drug was effective in treating . We then had to go through several regulatory processes to obtain this drug through TQEH’s pharmacy.”

Daniel has now been taking this treatment for six months and it’s already turned his life around. Not only has he avoided his weekly trips to the emergency department, but he is also only experiencing minor chest pain from his condition.

“This treatment is working really well. I do have pains every couple of days but my other treatments support that. Without it I would still be in the hospital on a fortnightly basis,” Daniel said.

“Now I can start looking forward. The last couple of year I’ve ended up in hospital on special occasions. My daughter is only 10-years-old and she’s seen things she should never have to see.

“I haven’t been able to travel anywhere and if I have it’s been dictated by what hospitals are close by. It was only four months ago that I took my first day trip in four years.”

Visiting Prof Beltrame every three months, Daniel is slowly returning to doing the things he loved before his condition took over his life. With his case highlighting how important ongoing research is in treating patients with rare conditions like his own, Daniel is confident Prof Beltrame will go on to answer more questions around the condition, improving outcomes for others diagnosed in the future.

“As much as this whole ordeal has been hard for me, in the grand scheme of things it’s really good. Now the next person who presents to hospital with the same symptoms can be diagnosed straight away, and they’ll be able to immediately start on this treatment.”