Life-saving operation inspired patient to volunteer and help others prepare for procedure

Steve Stickler is now taking time to give back to the hospital that saved his life

Steve Stickler is now taking time to give back to the hospital that saved his life - Credit: Archant

A great-grandfather who received a life-saving operation at Royal Papworth Hospital has spent the last eight years volunteering his time to help other patients prepare for the surgery.

Steve Stickler, 70, of Papworth Everard, underwent a pulmonary endarterectomy (PEA) to remove blood clots from his lungs in November 2009.

A year later, he was asked if he would like to share his experiences, and has since met with hundreds of PEA candidates, making the short journey to the hospital two or three times a week.

The clots on Steve’s lungs were caused by chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) and he has shared his story in support of pulmonary hypertension (PH) awareness week, which runs until Monday.

The campaign has been organised by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA UK).

Steve said: “I feel like my volunteering is very small payback because as far as I’m concerned, the operation turned my life around. Although I still have what’s classed as ‘residual PH’ I’m doing all the things I want to do; I cycle, I garden, I play with my grandchildren – and all that was just not possible before the operation.”

Royal Papworth Hospital is the only centre in the UK that performs the complex surgery and more than 1,800 procedures have been carried out there to date. The operation involves a surgeon opening the pulmonary arteries and removing the artery lining to clear the obstructions, restoring almost normal blood flow to the lungs.

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As well as meeting candidates face-to-face to help prepare them for the surgery, Steve also provides support via e-mail and often stays in touch with people following their operations too.

Steve said: “I get lots of emails from people telling me how encouraged they were to see me and hear about how ill I was, and how well I am now. I do keep the letters people send to me and some of them are really quite warming.”

Steve underwent his PEA operation three years after first experiencing symptoms of pulmonary hypertension, which include breathlessness, fatigue, blackouts and swelling around the ankles, arms and stomach.

He added: “I remember being told that even though the operation couldn’t cure me, it would give me a far better quality of life. Without it, I would have had two to three years left of a life that was probably going to be spent in a wheelchair.”

To find out more about pulmonary hypertension visit