FIRST Minister Rhodri Morgan was yesterday back at work, and boasting that emergency surgery to unblock two arteries had left him feeling 10 years younger.
After breaking his holiday to deal with the foot-and-mouth crisis, the 67-year-old said he had lost a stone in weight and up to four inches from his waist since undergoing the procedure a month ago.
As he returns to his recuperation in his traditional summer haunt of Mwnt, Ceredigion, Mr Morgan said he was feeling “tremendous”.
He told the Western Mail, “I feel 10 years younger.
“I’m on a virtually fat free diet and I’ve lost close on a stone in weight and have gone from a 44in waist to a 40in waist – I’m having to rediscover trousers.
“The loss of weight makes me feel better and fitter as does the fact that all three of my main arteries are working, instead of just one.
“This means that there is more blood flowing to the body so I am sleeping better, I don’t feel tired and there’s no more panting when I get to the top of a hill.”
Mr Morgan was rushed to hospital on July 8 after complaining of stomach pains. An angiogram revealed that two of his coronary arteries were partially blocked.
He underwent surgery at the University Hospital of Wales, in Cardiff, to insert two stents to open up the blocked blood vessels.
It has been four weeks since the procedure, during which time the stents have become fully integrated within the arteries.
Mr Morgan was discharged from hospital on July 11, when he praised the level of care he had received.
He said, “I consider myself to be a very lucky man because when it was detected on Sunday afternoon by the severe chest pain I had, it meant that the intervention of doing the stents – the little bit of plastic pipe they put in to replace the damaged bits of artery – means you avoid a much more severe heart operation later on.
“I was a huge admirer of the NHS before. I am an even greater admirer of the NHS now.”
There are now no signs on his tanned hands of the small incision, which was the only visible sign of the surgery – an angioplasty.
Mr Morgan, who is married to Cardiff North MP Julie Morgan, said yesterday, “It is a non-invasive procedure so they don’t have to open the chest, which means that recovery is much more rapid.
“The only restrictions I have had is that Julie has had to carry the heavy shopping bags, no heavy gardening, until this afternoon, no heavy work and no long distance swimming.”
Mr Morgan, who is exercising by taking long walks and swimming shorter distances, has broken his rest period twice since he left hospital – once to finalise the Labour-Plaid cabinet and again this weekend to deal with the implications of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Surrey.
He said he spent Saturday fielding phone calls regarding the outbreak from fellow politicians, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Mr Morgan also attended a meeting of Wales’ emergency planning committee yesterday before hosting a press conference about Wales’ response to foot-and-mouth.
He now hopes to restart his holiday and finish his recuperation in Mwnt, Cardigan – his normal summer holiday destination.
Mr Morgan added, “The doctors said I should have a proper holiday – I had to break it for the cabinet and I spent Saturday on the phone to everyone, but now I can go back on holiday.”
Government health monitors move to block use of £600 drug-releasing stents in heart operations
A version of the medical procedure that Rhodri Morgan underwent last month is likely to be scrapped because it is too expensive.
The Government’s health watchdog Nice will today publish a report recommending that “drug eluted stents” – special tubes which slowly release a drug to unblock arteries – should no longer be used.
Instead surgeons will be expected to revert to old-style “bare metal stents”.
Drug eluted stents were used in 60% of stent operations in 2005.
The British Cardiac Patients Association described the move as “shortsighted”, saying it could result in a massive increase in open-heart surgery costing the NHS millions of pounds.
Nice, the National Institute for Halth and Clinical Excellence, will say stents “are not recommended for use for patients with coronary heart disease”.
A spokeswoman for Nice said, “Drug eluted stents are £600 more expensive than bare metal stents. Nice cannot justify that this outweighs the benefits.”
It is not known which kind of stent was used during the First Minister’s angioplasty to unblock two coronary arteries.
An Assembly Government spokesman said last night, “There is no question of the angioplasty procedure being at risk. Nice is only revising its guidance on the use of the type of stents used in this procedure.”
The Nice proposal will be out for consultation until August 28.